PJ Bond - You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

PJ Bond

You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical (2009)

Black Numbers

Much like others before him, PJ Bond has emerged as a competent solo artist in the wake of an 'indefinite hiatus' by a band in which he was a member. The band in question was Outsmarting Simon, a New Brunswick, NJ emo outfit that released a couple of full-lengths on Triple Crown Records in the early aughts before calling it a day. Bond, not content to sit at home or get a real job, continued playing music in bands like Marigold and the Color Fred before striking out on his own with You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical, his solo debut. We've seen this episode before, and we'll certainly see it again, but it's hard to complain when it's this enjoyable.

The most welcome aspect of You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical is that several of the songs are full-band arrangements; an album with nothing but solo acoustic numbers is difficult to pull off without the songs running together, and it's good that Bond recognized that while recording. Songs like "No Theme Summer (Pastro, PA)" and "You Know the Drill" would be average as bare-bones acoustic, but the addition of percussion and high-pitched oohs and ahhhs do wonders for their appeal. "Stop Being Bad" and "Oh, Hunter" is also helped along by extra instruments, namely a choice lap steel guitar that any fan of alt-whatever shouldn't have a problem enjoying.

That's not to say Bond is unable to carry a song on his own merits. Both "Skin and Bones" and "Mama, I'm a Smoker" (and to a lesser extent, "Quiet or Loud") feature more haunting textures and and a more somber vocal approach; it's evident neither of those songs would have the same impact with extra instruments. On the other side of the coin, album opener "You, Too" is decidedly warmer, with Bond's croon sounding a tad more optimistic amidst the strumming and hand claps, and tracks like "Fucking Viv!" and "Grow Your Smile Wide" possess a degree of earnestness that's easy to relate to.

You Didn't Know I Was Alphabetical doesn't embark on uncharted territory, but it doesn't need to; music has always been more about the ability to connect with the listener than wowing them with wankery. PJ Bond can get by on his melodic songwriting chops, playing wherever there's people willing to listen, and living out of a 1993 Pontiac Sunfire, and he seems cool with that. We should be, too.