Retro, active

The return of Von Doom
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 29, 2008

NO DELUSIONS: McKenna, Memery, Gorman, and O’Rourke.

It’s hard not to dig Von Doom’s sound for someone like myself, who went a bit apeshit for the lovelorn, melodic, and melancholy noise of early ’90s indie rock, from stalwarts Buffalo Tom and Dinosaur Jr. to obscure stuff like St. Johnny and Seaweed. Listening to a rough mix of the forthcoming Von Doom album, The Descender, it’s not a stretch to hear all of the above here and there wrapped up in a tight 10-song package of two- and three-minute gems. The Replacements meets Wilco? Eh, whatever, but The Descender, the follow-up to the ’07 debut The Universe due by year’s end on 75orLess Records, could be a breakthrough album for the thirtysomethings that comprise Von Doom. Drummer Mike O’Rourke (the only non-Rhody native) and bassist Jack McKenna clamp onto the dual guitar bursts and sludgy chords courtesy of Ray Memery and Bill Gorman, who alternate vocal duties throughout The Descender.

“I think ‘indie pop’ would be a fine way to describe us, only because it’s such a vague term,” Gorman noted. “But at this point you could say that Hüsker Dü and Belle and Sebastian are both indie pop, so I guess we’re somewhere in between.”

Gorman clearly is stoked about the upcoming sophomore release and ready to premiere the new stuff at Jake’s Bar and Grille on Halloween. Von Doom has only played about 30 shows over the last two years while noting the “lack of places for local bands to play nowadays.

“If we are even a part of any scene around here, it’s just our friends in Hope Anchor, Six Star General, Blizzard of ’78 and the 75orLess crowd — bands like us that were singed by the ’70s and cooked in the ’80s.” Gorman said.
Gorman says Von Doom’s primary goal after The Descender remains “making more records. Recording is where it’s at for us,” he said. “We started The Descender with the idea that this would be our ‘rock album,’ but it ended up being more eclectic than The Universe, and I think that’s a good thing.” More eclectic? Maybe. The ideal barroom rock album? Definitely.

“We have no delusions of grandeur, no need for a big tour outside of our region,” Gorman said. “We just really enjoy getting together and having some drinks, throwing some darts, and playing some music.”

And Gorman and Memery aren’t cracking the lexicon lyrically, which is more than fine when considering the straight-ahead crunch of pedal-stomping numbers such as “Hopeless Motherfuckers,” “Get Away,” and the uber-catchy opening number “Black Light,” any of which could peel the fresh coat of paint at the revamped Jake’s on Friday.

Their fiery cover of Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” (with O’Rourke’s rumbling drums throughout) is another standout track, but why Devo? Is this Von Doom’s idea of a timely political statement? Gorman offered a simpler rationale.

“Because Devo is awesome,” he said. “Plus, beneath those shiny synths, Devo shares the same bleak world outlook that we do, and I think both Ray and I are pretty paranoid songwriters.”

As for the band name, I was always under the assumption the moniker was derived from the Fantastic Four’s metal-masked villain.

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