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The Shondes - My Dear One PDF Print E-mail
Written by Beverly Bryan   

ImageThe Shondes
My Dear One

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I never expected Brooklyn's Jewish queercore activists The Shondes to record the ultimate break-up album. After their strongly political (pro-justice for Palestine) and slightly dissonant debut The Red Sea, I thought they'd stay musically stern, angular, and just a bit distant in that Sleater-Kinney/Pretty Girls Make Graves kinda way.

But this second full-length finds the crew (less original guitar player Ian Brannigan and plus new guitarist Furleigh) commanding the well-worn themes of romantic defeat and disillusionment, and the catchier sounds associated with them, like a ship the quartet was born to captain. Here be touching tunes that grab you and drag you down to watery depths of feeling most people can't even access in their day to day life. It's a fantastic way to follow up the stunning, almost-metal barrage of their debut. Unfortunately, you can't plan for something like that. Someone has to break your heart first. The members of The Shondes (Shonde is Yiddish for a disgrace) are refreshingly uncoy about the fact that these tearful and fiercely accusatory songs are about Brannigan's abrupt departure.

Singer and bass player Louisa Solomon is the terrifying and alluring siren in this mess of nautical metaphors and similes I'm making, especially when belting lines like "I never knew you could be so cowardly/ Now I'm always stuck in fucking Miami." She mixes the cold fire of Rainer Maria's Caithlin de Marrais with the hearty women's music warmth of Tracy Chapman or Indigo Girls. Her lyrical lamentations range from sharp tour diary sketches of a romantic breakdown to poetic evocations of the same, and on to expressions of emotion so bare that they're actually embarrassing, sometimes in the course of one song. My Dear One is emo as all hell and demonstrates the word still means something as long as people are still putting out music like this. Against the current fuzzy, frothy musical landscape, an inspired, emotion-driven album like My Dear One stands out in the memory like a lighthouse at night.

If you were young or just susceptible in the '90s there is a song on here that will remind you of a song that used to make you tear up. But, what's more, with Elijah Oberman's weeping violin and the many other klezriffic flourishes, the album is at the very least haunted by the ghost of a song that made your Bubbe cry too.

My Dear One still captures the essential velocity of the band in performance, while fine-tuning their roughly Yiddish-theater-meets-Kill-Rock-Stars sound. They are succeeding musically as they never have before by twining those disparate threads of shout-along pop punk, post punk, and Old-World soul into something with the strength and solidity of a steel cable and, in so doing, achieving ineffable rock ballad perfection over twelve tracks without losing their accents – any of their accents. My Dear One is the work an extraordinary band. Queercore lives and, in The Shondes, it has grown up to be a real Shayna Maideleh. Five nautical stars.

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