It's been a long four years since the last Verbena record. Their 1999 album, Into the Pink, drew rave reviews and rocked harder than a fistfight between Black Francis and James Williamson (and was produced by then-labelmate Dave Grohl).
But raves, especially in this hero-swapping industry, are fleeting. Silence makes the hearts of fans grow colder.
The band spent those four years planning their latest album, La Musica Negra. Normally, bands finish at least two albums in such a long time period. And, well, Verbena actually did record two albums. But if frontman Scott Bondy has anything to say about it, you will never, ever hear the first one.
"We recorded a whole record that we scrapped," Bondy explains. "We did wanna have the right songs, and we wrote about 20 or 30. I still think the record could be better. But we made one record that was just terrible. There are songs that are on La Musica Negra that we re-recorded from the album that we threw away. It just didn't feel right and it was just a mess."
Luckily, the band spared us their throwaway and left us with Musica, their best release to date. The album is a solid, sexy, kick-ass slab of rock 'n' roll wax that makes most so-called "rock" bands look shamefully pale in comparison. Bondy's slack-jawed vocals and grooved-out riffs, Nick Daviston's super low-end bass and Les Nuby's thunderous 4/4 beatings combine to make some of the best racket heard that side of the Mississippi.
Ever self-deprecating and deflective of praise, however, Bondy defers some credit to producer Rob Schnapf (Beck, Foo Fighters).
"I think we finally found the guy we'll make records with, which I had kinda given up hope on," he explains. "Not that we've made tons and tons of records, but I had always hoped to find that guy. I don't want to be one of those people that jumps around. I just wish we got to make records more often. Just like in the '60s-The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were in the studio twice a year."
Schnapf may have helped Musica hold its own musically, but the lyrics aren't to be ignored. Bondy has proven himself to be quite the wordsmith with songs like the pop culture-referencing first single, "Way Out West" ("I got a Mexican Radio/Me and my Rubber Soul"). Yet other songs, such as "The Devil in Miss Jones" examine the boggy terrain of religion ("When I hear the choir sing/ Hallelujah/ I'm reborn/ and I feel warm all over").
That's quite a big sentiment for your average music listener to ponder. But Bondy's not sweating it. He doesn't necessarily believe that kids will be paying all that much attention.
"You know, I don't really know that it makes all that much of a difference to kids," Bondy says. "All that matters to kids is Playstation and The Fast and the Furious on DVD."
But apathy on the part of some hasn't left the skinny, mop-topped vocalist hopeless. A little uneasy, perhaps, but not hopeless.
"I think kids still listen to Led Zeppelin; I just think there's a lack of exposure," Bondy explains. "Like our parents' generation [was] afraid that the country's going to be in our hands-I feel the same way. I could have a bunch of Legos when I was 7 years old and I could be amused for hours. Kids now, they don't have to develop any imagination whatsoever. All their forms of entertainment, they don't have to seek them out. It just attacks them. It's mind-numbing.
"And that whole aggressive food movement," Bondy continues, adopting an "extreme" tone of a television pitch man. ""Fuckin' Doritos! They'll fuck you up!' That's what it's gotten to."You know," Bondy concludes, "like purple ketchup."