The Rondelles: The Fox

The Rondelles: The Fox

Label: Teanbeat
Release Date: 2000
Review Date: 2001

The Rondelles are a fabulous disaster. They are wonderfully crappy. The first time I saw them I almost walked out in the middle of the show. It was like seeing a bunch of high school kids. Something about their attitude and the atmosphere of the dive they were playing in made me stick it out. When I did leave, I had a copy of their latest CD clutched in my sweaty palms, hopping up and down and the clapping. My girlfriend had read something about them being recent high school graduates, which made sense. Anyway, before the show I see this young kid walking around in a white oxford that looked like it had been washed in hot water and dried on high heat with a bunch of gym towels. The effect was only heightened by the ascot poking out the top. Oh yeah, and he was talking into a dictaphone. I told him he looked like Clem Burke, and he actually seemed to know who I was talking about. This young buck turned out to be the drummer, and the keyboard player, at the same time. His kit and style is very minimal. He plays both of them standing up, which makes it easier to hit the rim shots and melodies at the same time. I have a friend who picked up a garage sale quality keyboard at the Salvation Army for ten bucks, and I think he out-spent the guy from the Rondelles. Another pre-show character of interest was a bubbly young lady sporting a thrift store sequened tank top and a wide flared skirt swinging a handbag/purse thingy which she continued to clutch while loading her bass gear onstage. The singer/guitarist is a little mousey girl who stands behind her double extra cheap Explorer ripoff dubbed “The Flying – X”. The Rondelles have an endearing charm that seems to be made up of equal parts naivete, youthful enthusiasm, and beginners luck. Their songs are simple and their sound is low-tech. Song subjects are typical of the genre, lots of boys behaving like louses, sock hops and county fairs, like a slightly more mischevious Buddy Holly.

The first one is called Fiction Romance/Fast Cars, and what is that, their two favorite Buzzcocks songs? “The Fox” is their second release, and it’s a good follow up to the first one. Part of the Rondelles package is their amateurish exhuberance little bit on par with early Shonen Knife. I said “a little”, so don’t get carried away. With a second release you run the risk of wearring out your schtick. Fortunately, “The Fox” is just as catchy and enjoyable as the first one. The lyrics, though simple, are usually clever and insightful. “Rediscover Fire” is one of the more adult songs dealing with relationships. “Modern Chemical” is about who-knows-what, but it’s brilliant. Most songs have some pieces of brilliance in them. Some of them are awkward, but not awkward enough to kill your buzz. It’s like riding a rickety rollercoaster. Part of the thrill is being on the verge of derailing, and wondering if they are going to be able to pull it off. rough around the edges? Sure. Worth buying? Definitely. Can they continue to pull it off? That remains to be seen. My second live performance encounter with the Rondelles didn’t fair so well. The feedback, technical difficulties, and off-key singing added flavor to the first show. The second time around it was too overwhelming to enjoy and I bailed. Sometimes they come off like one big inside joke, which doesn’t carry a lot of weight if you don’t know them personaly. When Shonen Knife got their “act together” they lost everyting that made them interesting. The Rondelles don’t seem to be headed in that direction. Instead, they run the risk of becoming a tired, one trick pony. What direction can they take? One of the high points of the first two records and the two live shows I’ve seen was when Clem Burke junior took over vocal duties. The regular line does a bang up job. Most one-song change ups are irritating at best, but the case with the Rondelles is different. Granted, what makes it work is the contrast with the regular singer. I’m not suggesting a fulltime switch, more like a jump from 4% to 40%.

Bottom line. Either of the two Rondelles records makes an excellent lo-fi edition to your collection. I’d say you’ve got high chance of enjoying a live performance. Let’s hope they can continue to be engaging. How’s that for a backhanded compliment?

High-tech: teenbeatrecords.com
No-tech: Teanbeat Records P.O. Box 3265 Arlington Virginia, 22203

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