Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Grotesque, Self-Pity and Rot – Lady Bones’ Debut LP is Ugly Pop

Follow the ugly-poppers down the path, but allow me to forewarn you—
there are vicious surprises lurking in the dark.

That clichéd phrase, “never judge a book by its cover” comes to mind quickly at first glance of Lady Bones' debut full-length album ‘Dying’ (Midnight Werewolf Records). The spooky album cover, the collection of songs with titles like “Nest”, “Wet”, “Dead Dogs”, and “Amen Dead Friend” all create a bleak and abrasive aesthetic character.

Yet amidst all the grime, hate, and chaos, I'll be damned if there isn’t still a share of whistle-friendly choruses buried in the songs like diamonds in a tar pit.

The grotesque compositions of shame, self-pity and rot give the album a heavy Mudhoney-esque quality.

The self-proclaimed “ugly pop” band from Allston released a collection of ten original songs, touching up their signature sludgy pop sound and coloring it several shades darker.

The dynamics of the band's music are polar opposites; teasing the listener with twinkling indie rock melodies only to descend into violent noisy choruses. It's as if in one minute, the band is holding out a flower in serene gesture, and in the next, throwing it down on the ground and stomping on it, while screaming at the top of their lungs.

Though the exact root of the band's music is difficult to trace, the signs of influence come out in short windows. The grotesque compositions of shame, self-pity and rot give the album a heavy Mudhoney-esque quality. In fact, there are several characteristics of garage rock which emerge like bubbles from the murky depths of its grunge sound.

Additionally, Sean Gilston, the band's singer/guitarist, creates an interesting dynamic. The singer changes gears from his mumbling verses which seem as though he's doing little more than singing out of the side of his mouth, to ferocious, roaring choruses projecting critiques both of the outside world and himself. Like Kurt Cobain doing an impression of Black Francis, only more accurately than Nirvana ever had.

Essentially the songs included in ‘Dying’ are meant to be heard as an album as a whole; there are no singles that inherently stand out from the other tracks. Frankly, for the first few listens, it was difficult to tell the difference between all of the tracks. But the power of this lies in the band's ability to create an original experience for the listener to have to explore the whole way through, rather than allowing them to just pluck songs out to show friends.

If I did, however, have to pick one song to represent the album, I'd probably go with “Stay” because it’s encompassing characteristics of the band. Gilston's guitar rings out like a siren, as if issuing a warning before Jeremy Jackson's muddy, chugging bass grooves and Egon Ryan's tumbling, thunderous drums explode out of your speakers like a raging monster being let out if it's cage.

While this description of the band's music may come off as formulaic, the album's greatest strength is its unpredictability. Each song employs a unique chord progression which, especially upon first listen, is almost impossible to know where it's going to next. The ear-pleasing melodies could be broken at any minute like a piece of ribbon candy; a single chord could, at any time, crush something smooth and flowing into a hundred razor sharp pieces.

In the end, ‘Dying’ reaches out in several different directions. It's Industrial with a flash of beauty; it's pop that has been severely disjointed and deformed; its indie wallowing in its own black shadow. Follow the ugly-poppers down the path, but allow me to forewarn you—there are vicious surprises lurking in the dark.

Follow Lady Bones on Facebook for future show dates, stream 'Dying' on Bandcamp and purchase the physical LP via Midnight Werewolf now.

Austin Sorette is a freelance music journalist writing for Boston area blogs including Boston Ska (dot) Net and usually doesn't judge a book by its cover. Holla at him.

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