Album Review

A.A. Bondy, 'When the Devil's Loose'

August 31, 2009

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A.A. Bondy When the Devil's Loose
Fat Possum
ESSENTIAL “When the Devil’s Loose’’
A.A. Bondy plays at Great Scott in Allston on Sept. 8.

A.A. Bondy messes with your head. A refugee from the grunge era, when he fronted the band Verbena, Bondy has repositioned himself as a potent folk ’n’ roots artist, reconfiguring the Nirvana-inspired loud-soft-loud pattern into more subtle contrasts. His second album, “When the Devil’s Loose,’’ has a lot of chaos and strife churning below calm pacing and bemused tone. The album’s first couple of songs put out a thick haze of cryptic imagery. Then the phenomenal title track tightens things with a cautionary tale tucked into a litany of disasters. A young Bob Dylan used to craft songs like “When the Devil’s Loose,’’ but delivered them with a staccato panic. Bondy, though, keeps his cool while observing the wreckage. Bondy’s supple vocals and the roomy song arrangements let him shake off the world-weary gloom at times for the more peaceful evocations of the piano waltz “On the Moon.’’ And Bondy breaks the tension mid-album with the whimsical “Oh the Vampyre’’ and upbeat folk hymn “I Can See the Pines Are Dancing.’’ Bleakness bubbles up again before the record is over, but his song “The Mercy Wheel’’ suggests that Bondy is giving the devil a fight. (Out today) SCOTT McLENNAN