Home > Bargain > The Rondelles – Shined Nickels and Loose Change

The Rondelles – Shined Nickels and Loose Change

K Records, 2001

So one day I saw all this money on the ground of a music store and got excited.  I started snatching at the nickels and dimes and got frustrated when they didn’t materialize between my fingers.  Twenty minutes later I smacked my head and realized that, duuuh, the coins are on the album cover of some band!  I mean, p’shaw!  So given that the change nearly adds up to a dollar it was destiny to turn my frustration into jubilation.  Well, at least I hoped so.

It turns out that this young (and I mean high school young) quartet from New Mexico put out a few records before releasing this collection of rarities and non-album tracks.  I suppose fans of the band at the time were thrilled that this was created, for if much of the group’s material exists on hard to find (or lukewarm to purchase) 7 inch records and compilations, then it’s nice to have everything in one place.  Still, is it worth picking up if one hasn’t heard of ’em at all?

What I really dig about the Rondelles is their raw and youthful energy.  There isn’t much in regard to production or cleverness on this release, and I imagine it’s the same across all of their records.  The band really just sounds like a group who likes to get together and bash away.  “Safety In Numbers” and its slightly more than two minute length is a fantastic representation of what the band tends to deliver.  There’s Juliet Swango’s (who sorta looks like a young Winona Ryder, by the way) rather deep vocals amidst Oakley Manson’s rapid drumming that keeps up a punk air, though during the breaks the band shouts out as if they were cheerleaders.  The Rondelles keep up the energy with a combination of chugging guitar and a particularly active mini organ on “Shimmybecker”, which makes one wonder about the place of a mini organ in rock ‘n roll.  I suppose the same could be asked of the Boss’ saxophone or Jethro Tull’s flute, so apparently anything goes as long as the volume is loud at some point, eh?

An artist that I don’t hear covered too often is Madonna … I mean how are you supposed to cover “Justify My Love” anyway?  The Rondelles, however, felt the need to have a go with Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” in a sped up way, which actually sounds pretty good if you want to hear the song without the drama.  By the way, do you remember when “Like A Prayer” was a controversial song due to the video?  As far as I know, no member of the Rondelles made out with the Jesus statue on a pew when recording this song, so clearly they’re just trying to stick to the music here.  Another cover, “Cafeteria Rock” by the Shimmy Beckers, is a thrill with its refrain of simply “Food fight!”.  Unlike “Like a Prayer”, this cover seems a little more relative to their high school lives and sounds such given the spirited way it is sung.  Then there’s “Angels We’ve Heard On High” that finally adds a pop rock element to a Christmas classic.  I was tired of hearing those choirs anyway.

To get a few listens in, the Rondelles are still spinning for free on MySpace and have a spot at Last.fm as well.

As my first Rondelles record, this is an excellent introduction to the band.  B-sides records don’t usually work that way but I feel that every song on “Shined Nickels and Loose Change” represent a consistent pop rock punch without dabbling too deeply in production.  The covers aren’t trying to be anything fancy, the music always ends up with tons of power chords and drum presence, and Swango keeps it low key throughout with that voice of hers.  For only a dollar this turned out to be well spent money on fourteen tracks.  Unfortunately this did turn out to be the Rondelles’ last release before they, I dunno, went off to college or something.  It’s a pity, though I imagine when the group looks back at their high school yearbook they might look at those times differently than some of us hip Math Team members.

I actually did go out and get a hold of their first album after hearing this one and, well, I wasn’t all that impressed.  I found that the songs on that record weren’t catchy enough or nearly as interesting.  Perhaps this B-sides collection gets the band at their most creative period, where they only had to concentrate on one or two songs at a time given the medium the songs were pressed on.  When asked to get ten or so tracks on tape, maybe the group felt a little stretched.  Or maybe I just had to spin the record a few more times, I dunno.  I suppose one album that works is fine for me.  As for the rest of you, based on my experience, see if you can pick this record up one way or another.  It’s a great one for the rock ‘n roll enthusiasts.

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