January 20, 2020 BONES UK – Unplugged (EP Review)
Their full-length, eponymous debut made the Best of 2019 here at Cryptic Rock, but these ladies are not slowing down! Grammy nominated duo BONES UK return on Friday, January 24th, 2020, with their first Unplugged EP thanks to Sumerian Records.
Vocalist/Multi-Instrumentalist Rosie Bones and Guitarist Carmen Vandenberg may have been born and bred in London, but this empowered duo currently call Los Angeles home. After consistently slugging away to build a name for themselves over the past few years, BONES UK delivered their eponymous debut in 2019 and the rest has been satisfying enough to lead to a Grammy nod. Meanwhile, tours with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, PVRIS, and more, have paved the way for the ladies’ latest outing, the much-coveted opening slot on this winter’s KoЯn and Breaking Benjamin North American tour.
Now the important news for fans is that Bones and Vandenberg are slated to release their very first (mostly) acoustic EP, the aptly-titled Unplugged, just to prove that girls can play acoustic guitar. Inspired by Nirvana’s legendary MTV Unplugged performance, the pair have crafted a 5-song EP that stays true to their signature sass and artful sophistication. However, it is the EP’s accompanying art film, shot entirely in black and white, that is a must-see for die-hard fans.
Imagine, if you will, Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York, which was filmed 26 years ago. But instead of Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Lori Goldston taking the stage, tonight, that honor goes to BONES UK. They travel via hearse and magical porta potty to arrive into a surrealistic, film noir performance piece that is depicted in Orson Welles’ style. What follows is a 27-minute film that is artfully chic with a sense of humor and a pervasive attitude that no fucks shall be given by the ladies or their gaggle of beautiful freaks.
Those are the visuals. Musically speaking, the Unplugged EP opens to a weeping violin as a languid build begins to caress the very first notes of “Beautiful Is Boring.” Immediately, we hear that the intensity of the duo’s composition is magnified in this intimate setting, placing a focus on Bones’ intelligent lyrics while still allowing Vandenberg’s killer guitar licks to receive their fair share of the spotlight. In this, as always, they vibe off one another, while setting the stage for an exciting performance.
“What a waste of a pretty face,” Rosie spits in the second track, the sardonic and now Grammy Award-nominated “Pretty Waste.” Maintaining its sonic thump and its powerful lyrical exploration of our society’s twisted beauty standards, the song is just as thunderous unplugged as it is with its full electrical bite. Next, they add stand-up bass to the arsenal for “Black Blood.” This allows for an acoustic nostalgia to craft a smoky atmosphere that highlights Bones’ Rock-n-Roll soul-filled vocals.
Just as much fun in this format as in its original, “Filthy Freaks” is layered in funky bass licks, keeping the clap-along anthem for all the glamorous geeks and deviously naughty ones bold, sexy, and infectious. But the ladies choose to end on a more softhearted note with the ballad “Souls.” A promise that it is what’s on the inside that matters, particularly when it comes to sexuality and gender identity, here Vandenberg foregoes her acoustic to wield her electric axe and belt out a truly awe-inspiring solo that (again) proves her superior skills.
It’s no surprise that BONES UK lose none of their edge when they re-craft some of their finest gems into this unplugged format. Still able to challenge the status quo and question societal standards, the talented twosome take their art to the next level with Unplugged. In fact, one could easily say that in his acoustic bloodletting, the late, great Cobain fell into an intimate lake of fire—here, BONES UK do much the same. Still wowed by Bones and Vandenberg’s finesse, Cryptic Rock give the Unplugged EP 5 of 5 stars. (Psst, if you just have to know what a funereal vehicle, magical porta potty, elephant-man and BONES UK have in common, well, you need to see the film!)