Album Review: The Bonesetters ‘SAVAGES!’
At long last it’s here. The Bonesetters SAVAGES!. An album that nearly never saw the light of day. Were it not for a successful Kickstarter campaign and the generous lip service of blogs like Musical Family Tree, there was a significant chance that we never would have heard this album. That result would have been an unacceptable travesty.
For those of you that don’t know, this album has been in the can for quite sometime, but after the close of Mossback Records left the lion’s share of the recording costs on the shoulders of the band, the SAVAGES! release was in jeopardy. Fortunately for us, our ears need not fret. The Bonesetters are here.
The album opens with the title track. A soothing serenade of ahhs gives way to a rollicking guitar riff. Enter lead singer Dan Snodgrass. I happen to know that Dan spends his days as an assistant librarian. His station in life bleeds into his writing. Snodgrass’ songs contain full story arcs. The characters are rich and the descriptions vivid. He understands irony, symbolism and all of the other literary tricks of the trade, and he knows how to make them do his bidding. His writing is the type that only comes after long days spent thumbing through tomes written by men who have already conquered the beast that is the blank page.
Snodgrass’ knack for painting clear pictures in his listener’s mind is on display in the first verse of “Savages”, when he sings: “I have been a dead man, / But since those nights I’ve stretched to keep a level head / If I’ve learned one good lesson, / It’s how to keep an eye or two open while in bed.” These clever turns of phrase are littered throughout the album.
One aspect of SAVAGES! that appeals to me the more than any other is that it is completely vacant of gimmicks. Too many bands amongst the indie scene seem so intent on creating the appearance of complete originality that they wind up colluding their songs with layers of looping, incoherent sound effects. The Bonesetters don’t sound concerned with such frivolous pursuits. We all know that music, for the most part, is a medium that is shared and borrowed amongst its members. Originality proves an elusive dream. So The Bonesetters refuse to dress their songs up, leaving their stories and melodies to stand on their own. The result serves as a refreshing change of pace.
Choosing favorite tracks from SAVAGES! proves difficult. Mixed by Tyler Watkins of Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos, the album has an air of maturity that seems beyond a group that should still be discovering its identity. At the risk of sounding like a cheerleader, I’ll go ahead and say that there isn’t a single song that I dislike. Even the brief, instrumental, circus-like “Shakespeare” that appears on the latter half of the disc works for me as a nice intermission of sorts—as if allowing the listener to escape for a cigarette before the band brings this baby home.
I’m not going to waste your time by breaking this album down track for track. I would rather you listen and discover what they mean to you. See what Dan and the boys have to say. There’s an oft quoted Kurt Vonnegut line that goes, “I trust my writing most and others seem to trust it most when I sound like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am.” Though Dan is from New Palestine and his band gained their footing in Muncie, this too is a Hoosier voice worth hearing and one that others across the country can trust.
Written by Rob Peoni