The Fondas originally issued "Make You Mine" and the winning, Greg Cartwright-penned "Don't Come Back" as 7-inch singles on Sympathy for the Record Industry, the tiny Long Beach, Calif., imprint that's also home to Runaway Bombshell. Those songs appear here, too, as part of a set that's much heavier on original material than 2003's Coming Now!, the majority of it written by guitarist and platoon musician Mark J. Niemenski. But those songs were better as singles, because the Fondas are better when they're a singles band. Their instrumental chops are the honed stuff of veterans, and every guitar fill glints in vocalist Julie Benjamin's bombshell gaze that thing in her voice that's disconnected, like she's putting you down while making you fall in love. And there's "Infatuation," which gives everyone in the band a chance to play slow and deliberate, and amplify the template of grand Holland-Dozier-Holland productions like "Don't Leave Me Starvin' for Your Love." But barring such highlights and the initial rush of stompers "Make You Mine," "Tied Emotion," and the quick, readymade live-set opener "Can't Live Without Love" plus Cartwright's girl group revamp "Don't Come Back" ("My best girlfriend says you're just a jerk/But I still tried to make it work ...") Runaway Bombshell sounds just a little too studied. All of its parts are in place these five know and love too much great music for them not to be but on songs such as the would-be ballad "What" and "Say You're Sorry," they just don't sound like they're having any fun, and over time that feeling puts a little tarnish on Bombshell as a whole. That's why cool little genre experiments like the sashaying finger wag "Might As Well Go" (complete with a grinding saxophone) or the fun honky-tonk "Tell Me Lovesick Blues" work so well they sound like they would've made great 7-inch singles.
Saturday, Sept. 9, at Northern Lights, 660 W. Baltimore St., Detroit; 313-873-1739. With the High Strung.
Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to email@example.com.
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