Articles of Faith gave singer/guitarist Vic Bondi — a Chicago punk luminary and an articulate thinker more than willing to speak his mind — a podium from which to spout his vision, and spout he does on the Bob Mould-produced (and released) Give Thanks. The quintet wastes no time in cutting to the core of its anger; each song is masterfully crafted, from the pounding and ironic “Give Thanks,” the finger-pointing “In Your Suit,” and the embittered “American Dreams” to the tragically tender “Everyman for Himself.” Though AOF played hardcore, the songs are fully developed, and occasionally run well over the genre’s usual time limits. AOF consistently demonstrates superior talent, exploring various branches from the punk mainstream without stepping across the line to either pop or heavy metal.
Mould produced AOF’s second LP in 1985, but it wasn’t released until early ’87; parts of it sound a lot like contemporaneous Soul Asylum. Some songs scale back the percussion; an acoustic guitar is added to strengthen songs like “Nowhere”; the vocals are imaginatively layered on all thirteen tracks. Highbrow hardcore?
After AOF’s demise, Bondi — by then a University of Massachusetts history instructor — returned with a surprising, dry-as-dust solo album. Strumming an acoustic guitar (with overdubbed electric accents on a few songs) and singing in a hoarse, unmusical voice, he fills The Ghost Dance with plaintive, obliquely poetic songs about relationships, in settings like “Montana,” “Cambridge” and “Abilene Sunset.” Proceeding from the album title (a carefully explained reference to a Native American religious movement of the late 1800s), “Mister Noon” is a striking piece of evocative prose that doesn’t work as a song.
Joining up with a powerful rhythm section, Bondi formed Jones Very (named after a 19th-century Unitarian minister) and cut the impressive but uneven Words and Days, a loudly textured rock album with intelligently sophisticated lyrics. Bondi occasionally unleashes a frightening guttural shriek, making several songs unlistenably harsh. But when he and bassist Jeff Goddard jam (as on “Cut”) or harmonize on tuneful material (like the excellent title track), Jones Very turns into an exciting, invigorating proposition, a taut bundle of hyped-up melodic rock that packs a serious headkick.