Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bonaduces: Chapter One

The Bonaduces began as a bad band. Early hopes were modest for these veterans of an odd assortment of Winnipeg bands, including the Superchunk-erific Banned From Atlantis (Doug McLean (vocals, guitar), the girl-pop Buick Six (Mike Koop, guitar), the deeply quirky Garage People (Doug again plus Bob Sommers, bass). However, this two acoustic guitars plus an off-key bassist and an off-time drummer line-up failed to set the early nineties alight.

(Doug McLean, Mike Koop and Morph the cat in their unnatural habitat, circa 1995.)

Then, quite unexpectedly, the Bonaduces clicked, morphing into a stellar, if unusual, pop-punk band. Individual member's may have leaned towards indie-rock or classic rock but when crammed into a dark, moldy practice space, things picked up speed and aggression. Complicating matters of influence was the fact that chief song-writer Doug McLean's idea of pop was borne out of pure devotion for the shifting aesthetic of Top Forty radio, whether it be the Beatles or Tiffany, or Ace of Bass or as Doug once "confided" to me, “You know, since I bought the new Chynna Phillips album, Naked and Sacred, I no longer feel the need to eat.”

The newly-electrified band chidingly referred to the drastic change in sound as their, “New, More Jeff-Oriented Direction” (for this author’s notoriously narrow taste in high-speed pop). However, the band had actually just stepped up to the challenge of accompanying the increasingly sophisticated compositions Doug was firing off at a terrifying rate. While they still bounded about the stage, Koop and Bob added their own shadings to the songs, the most significant addition being their backing vocals which drove the band to new heights of choir boy brilliance. “Soy to the World” which also features Propagandhi’s (see here) Chris Hannah on background bellows was an early, striking example of this group approach.

This stronger, tighter, louder band risked obscuring Doug's lyrical voice, an unusual one in any genre. Doug had a literary bent but not so much of the poetic variety endemic to ambitious rockers but rather the bent of a short story writer. Each song is a tautly constructed narrative, with carefully delineated characters, often written from the point-of-view of a teenage girl (which back in the P.C.-minded mid-nineties was called "voice appropriation".).
Their 1995 tape, Matching Socks, Missing Feet, is more cohesive and better recorded than most demos. That said, time has done its decaying work to the magnetic tape though even with the hiss, these are clearly the songs of a band that had begun badly but was fast-approaching greatness.

Download Matching Socks, Matching Feet tape (lyrics included)

(MRML recommends WinrRAR for unpacking your downloads)

As a follow up, the boys released a split cassingle with la-la girl-pop band Be'hl and, as was the style at the time, they each covered one of the other's songs. The Bonaduces, with clashing guitar lines and and vocal parts, shine as a group on their cover, "Breathe You" and Doug's teen-girl conflict ("Monica and Veronica") some how feels more personal, with the characters being more like proxies. Or perhaps we're over-analyzing a sing-along pop song.

Download the cassingle (Bonaduces side only - I'll fix that one day I promise.)

For any Manitoba readers (hello?)
the Bonaduces

will play a reunion show at the
Lo Pub on June 20th.

Don't miss it!


  1. Hey jeffen did you try out the link I left in your "Should I Stay Should I blow" post. I was interested to see what you thought.

  2. Yeah, that was the Sharks. (Didn't Chris Spedding used to be in that band?)


    It's funny how the opening riff is almost exactly SISOSIG then it veers off somewhere totally different. I suppose it's the kind of riff that must've been used many times before.

    Thanks for the upload!

  3. Yep Chris Spedding was in the sharks. As usual your knowledge is wide and accurate.

    All the best

  4. Thank you Trouser Press!

    (Funny enough my first thought was, "This sounds like Bad Company" then when I checked allmusic and that was their comment too - I suppose it's not an accident.

  5. Wow, this is so awesome! Brings me right back. *Sigh*

    XO, Tonzie.

  6. Watch out Tonzie, you never know when The Mandarins or Swim will rear their pop-rockin' heads in blog land!

  7. Tonzie

    Yeah we get a bit nostalgic here, don't we?

    Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!

    Speaking of which, I was just lamenting the lack of a recording of Swim's excellent version of Catherine, Catherine, Kate.

  8. Any chance you'd re-UP the bonaduces stuff?


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