PJ Bond’s second LP, “Where Were You?” is a blend of jangling, upbeat tunes and biting melancholy. Catchy choruses disguise brutal lyrical content, as dark and expansive songs tell stark tales of the heartbreak and tragedy that make us who we are. A well travelled troubadour, Bond tackles many of life’s tough questions with a winning attitude. Armed with his guitar and his pen he continues to smile as a gallows humour underlies this excellent album.
The soaring backing harmonies on opener “everglades”, aided by a Hawaiian sound evoke images of carefree, summer days. The warm glow grows in intensity with the rolling, open guitars on “Broadstreet”, before it is pierced by Bond’s exasperated lyrics: “Last time I heard from you I grew tired of listening…frankly I think you’re being ridiculous.”
The joyful instrumentation continues with the fast, retro guitars on “’87 Broadcast”, the booming intro to upcoming single “The Better Option” and the driving rock of “We Were Just Kids”, all songs that would enhance any road trip. But the music matches the challenging nature of the lyrics with the plucked acoustics on “Seer”, the bleak country sweep of “Hellfire” and the Nebraska-era Springsteen melancholia of “Neighbourhoods”.
“Where were you when your father died? Do you remember his laugh or his face?” Sings Bond in the opening to “For J”. His description of tragedy and loss is haunting, punching hard at the grim realities that haunt us all. But there is a message of positivity behind the trauma; death is part of life. Our experiences, good and bad, are what make us. And they should be recognised as necessary.
New Jersey band Communipaw provide the instrumental backing throughout and do a magnificent job. Rolling country slide and banging rock break down, they create a consuming atmosphere around Bond’s own singing and playing and take the album to spectacular heights.
“Where Were You?” is a fantastic record, sitting happily among the recent successes produced by the likes of The War On Drugs. PJ Bond sings of the realities of life, yet is never world weary. Heart break, sorrow and the passing of youth all feature, but rather than any sense of depression, the album leaves a feeling that all experiences are vital to the human condition. And no matter how bad things may look, there’s always friendship, the open road and a cold beer.