Rattle them Bones

Reimagining the trio
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  May 2, 2012


For too long has dance pop been solely occupied by commercial beat-makers like Dr. Luke. Now it's time for the indie occupation of the sound. While Dean Ford is trying to beat them at their own game by glamming up like early Bowie, and Crunk Witch give it a hardcore/screamo twist, the brand-new Other Bones do it up indie style. On their debut EP, Hinges, the trio essentially make the album Madonna wishes she had just released, with brassy, commanding front-woman presence from Loretta Allen, thundering beats for the dancefloor, and just enough electric guitar to give rock fans a rope to hold on to.

"Feels like Home" even has a full-blown Madonna call-out, the namesake chorus aping the "feels like home" delivery from "Like a Prayer," which, as it was released in 1989, there's a chance Allen never actually heard unless she was watching the Super Bowl half-time show this past year. Her vocal opening is even buoyed by the kind of almost-Latin/almost-Caribbean beat that backed "La Isla Bonita."

Of course, Allen's a better natural singer than Madonna ever was, with range enough to pull off both the delicate high-register stuff and the sinister strut that infuses the bridge here, where she gets plenty bold in encouraging the listener to "walk alone/And you can know what it feels like."

Make sure you hit up YouTube or see these three live to see how they put this stuff together. I love that the "acoustic" video version of the opening "Not This Way" has Andrew Mead sitting on a stool playing an MPC (you know, the thing with all the little pads you hit with your fingers, triggering keyboard-like sounds and beats), but then switching to an egg shaker. Allen does a fair amount of vocal looping while Eric Bruce plays the role of fairly traditional guitarist/bassist, as the song may desire.

His four-note guitar breakdown at the finish of "Not This Way" brings the song full circle from the digital swirl of the open and the punch of the chorus, which ought to really fire people up live. Bruce really stars in "The Bad in Goodbye," though, where he opens like a snake charmer before Mead brings in a snare-driven beat and a sonar bloop. Then the guitar snarls along with Allen: "I didn't come over here to just get in the way/So don't be surprised when I call you to explain."

While the song could maybe explode a little more forcefully in the chorus, the build creates strong tension and the "hey-ee-ay-ee-ay-ee-ay" vocal pyrotechnics by Allen should throw a bolt of energy right down your spine before she reaches right down to the soles of her shoes for the "fuck you, goodbye" slap in the face that serves as the song's crescendo peak. The vibrato that leads into the fading atmospheric keyboards in the finish ain't bad either.

She can be sultry and R&B, too, as on "Say That to Me," where I can never quite tell if she's issuing a challenge or a summons. Some of the drum breakdowns sound like they could have come right off an Asia album, but the menacing bassy swirl behind the guitar and high-mixed snare keep things sounding contemporary even when the chorus gets fairly balladic. There's a nice switch-up with the acoustic guitar here, too, in the bridge before the song chimes to a finish.

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