July 10, 2019 BONES UK – BONES UK (Album Review)
Back in March 2018, Cryptic Rock sat down with BONES UK Vocalist Rosie Bones to discuss creating music with a message alongside her partner, Guitarist Carmen Vandenberg. Well, that innate need for artistic expression has finally given birth to the highly anticipated, full-length debut album, the eponymous BONES UK, which arrives Friday, July 12th, 2019, via Sumerian Records.
Clearly when Nylon calls you “Trent Reznor level cool,” you’re doing something right! Born and bred in London, BONES UK currently call Los Angeles home—but that’s neither here nor there. These two talented women have been making an international name for themselves for several years now—touring with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, The Cults, Band of Skulls, PVRIS, and more—while promoting their catchy brand of Rock-n-Roll that never shies from whip-smart, critical commentary. In fact, on their impressive debut, the pair tackle topics ranging from societal beauty standards to toxic masculinity to sexism within the music industry.
Working alongside Producer Filippo Cimatti (Jeff Beck, Luisa), a former classmate of Vandenberg’s at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Surrey, the duo have remained true to their provocative and exhilarating blend, continuing to wave a proud middle finger at mindless conformity. The 12-song BONES UK is dusted in Pop sensibilities that weave infectious choruses, smoky, bluesy Rock guitar riffs, and a fierce nonconformist spirit.
BONES UK opens to the powerful “Beautiful Is Boring.” “They said they did not want my face in their magazine ‘cause I’m not beautiful,” coos Bones as a sumptuous electronic beat travels through our perfectly imperfect bodies. A knife to the heart of societal beauty standards and the idea that physical flawlessness is ideal, the track is a perfect representation of BONES UK and their infectious, provocateur style. Continuing to embrace these flaws, “Filthy Freaks” picks up where its predecessor left off and raises a toast to the walking contradictions and glamorous geeks as Vandenberg amps up her undeniable guitar riffs and stellar Rock-n-Roll licks.
Challenging the idea that a woman cannot be both beautiful and intelligent, the Grunge Pop “Pretty Waste” is the defiant promise that not every woman is so easily defined. To counter this with a cross-cultural spice, the ladies inject a Flamenco influence into “Leach,” where Bones sounds like a cherub spitting biting sarcasm at all the creepers.
Next, let’s be honest, is there really any better time than now to tackle David Bowie’s 1997 single “I’m Afraid of Americans”? Co-written with Brian Eno, the original track represents the work of two of the greatest musical minds of our time, so why not put that fiery BONES UK touch on the neo classic? Here, the ladies add their own dark zest to the well-known favorite that casts a weary eye on the homogenization of world culture in favor of Americanization.
Breathing a sigh, electro-dusted “Souls” is an intriguing little respite, a ballad with multiple interpretations, which contrasts perfectly with the ominous dirge of “Skeletone.” Here, the juxtaposition of the electronic backbone and Bones’ edgy vocals with Vandenberg’s beautifully weeping, soulful guitar work is placed front and center, and rightfully so. This paves the way for and flows perfectly into the frenetic yet sultry “Choke.” An aggressively sensual ode to addictive love, the track presents a self-contained rave of asphyxia and violence atop an infectiously undulating dance floor.
Allowing Vandenberg to step into the forefront, the rocker-stomper “Creature” goes for a delicious, bluesy Rock feel that is overlaid with Bones’ edgy, modern vocal approach as she embraces the myriad facets that formulate to create each of our distinct personalities—daddy, baby, pervert, perfect, man or woman. Meanwhile, the acoustic, cinematic “Black Blood” offers a bittersweet warning as a violin weeps for a Rock-n-Roll soul that cannot be contained.
Bouncing back to an electro-stomp, the languid infectiousness of “Limbs” promises that no one does you as well as you, so take your collection of connected body parts and embrace it. Ultimately, the ladies choose to end with the empowering, “Girls Can’t Play Guitar.” A swampy, bluesy kick to the groin, the track allows Miss Vandenberg to absolutely shine as an ever sarcastic Bones spits venom at those within the music industry who view women as brainless groupies and not intelligent and talented musicians.
At first glance, the pieces of BONES UK might seem perfectly disparate: a sassy modern crooner backed by electronic beats and a soulful, bluesy guitar heroine. Perfectly juxtaposed to one another in sound, like yin and yang, Bones and Vandenberg take their separate musical identities and thrive off one another to craft something that is deviously diverse and proudly provocative. Not to be overlooked, like the cherry atop the sundae of undulating beats and smoky guitar riffs is an intelligent commentary blended with an irreverent sarcasm, a slap in the face to all of your conformist beliefs.
On their debut, BONES UK bring together some of their best-known singles with brand new material, continuing the persona that they have so lovingly crafted for themselves: a duet who don’t shirk away from speaking their minds and who never conform to genre or societal standards. Experimenting within the parameters of each track while remaining catchy and thought-provoking, Bones and Vandenberg craft an album that is truly an impressive debut. And while they are not without (proud) flaws, BONES UK are brassy enough to own their imperfections with triumphant pride. For this, Cryptic Rock give BONES UK’s eponymous debut 4.5 of 5 stars. Oh yeah, and girls can play guitar!