Just as the world readies itself to close the door on Motor City rock 'n' roll for the second time (the first time, you might recall, was in 1973), along come the Von Bondies, kicking the fucker off the hinges and injecting their hometown with an impassioned zeal it hasn't seen since the Stooges held court at the State Theatre. The only real obstacle they face on the eve of their worldwide coming-out party is whether or not they can escape the shadow of their (former) friends and tourmates The White Stripes and forge an identity of their own.
Aside from being the band's major-label debut, Pawn Shoppe Heart already has the hype machine on overdrive as a result of lead singer/guitarist Jason Stollsteimer's barroom fracas with Brother Jack White. Big Jack might have won that particular battle (have you seen the pictures?), but Stollsteimer and his troops have won the war; Pawn Shoppe Heart is the most electrifying album to have trawled its way out of the Detroit gutter in ages, effortlessly showing up White's own White Blood Cells in the process.
You can practically see Marcie Bolen and Carrie Smith workin' their torn Marc Bolan gear as they tear through the glittery fury of "C'mon C'mon", and in the grease-fried soul of "Crawl Through the Darkness", drummer Don Blum does his damndest to keep up with Stollsteimer and Bolen's stampeding guitars. "Poison Ivy" is two minutes of psychotic, riff-driven mania that clutches a slippery melody for dear life, and "The Fever" winds a furious bassline around tag-team vocals and Blum's hyper-manic pummeling. The rollicking "Been Swank" (a homage to Soledad Brothers drummer Ben Swank) swipes a trick or two from Screamin' Jay Hawkins' playbook of electrified blues boogie, and the closing title track is bathed in Ten High whiskey and a lifetime's worth of broken promises.
If the band occasionally sound clumsy in their transformation from wet-behind-the-ears garage merchants to swaggering seventies arena-soul stars, then so be it; if a few awkwardly vacant moments like "Broken Man" and "Right of Way" are the only downside of such a metamorphosis, we should pray that all bands of their ilk ditch their torn denim and garage dirt in favor of rhinestone-encrusted riffage and purple satin blouses.
Alongside the Soledad Brothers' Voice of Treason (which for some ungodly reason has yet to receive a stateside release), Pawn Shoppe Heart looks set to usher in the second-wave of Detroit's musical renaissance -- an era in which the riffs are still vintage, but the players tossing them off have swapped the cozy confines of the garage for the impersonal bombast of the arena, and sound all the more righteous for it.