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The release of Savages was fraught with uncertainty and desperation. Proving that you don’t have to be a Capitol or Atlantic Records-signed artist to be screwed by your record company, Bonesetters were stuck with the bill for the recording of Savages after Mossback Records, their label, went under. Recorded in November and December of 2010, Savages was finally released digitally on Tuesday and a physical release will follow next year due to a successful Kickstarter campaign.
The band deftly avoids cluttering Savages with inconsequential songs – with the possible exception of the instrumental interlude, “Shakespeare” – and focuses on delivering an album’s worth of unpretentious and unsweetened music, playing to their strengths while smartly and cautiously exploring new sonic possibilities.
“Bruises” has a loose, relaxed feel to it. Dan Schepper’s drums casually stroll throughout, while Ryan Rader’s snappy bass line in the verses give way to broad, elongated strokes in the chorus, giving the song a natural flow.
Frontman Dan Snodgrass often peppers the songs with evocative, almost disemboweled lyrical phrases like “the helicopters swinging, zinging static and the television glow/The silent flip of a switch, the whispering radio,” (“Bruises”). Those may be the most ear-catching and distinctive lyrical flourishes on the album, but Snodgrass is at his best and most effective when he sighs, shrugs and sings “But I’m finding out it’s more dangerous now” on album closer “Morning Glory.”
Bonesetters have probably found their signature song (at least at this early stage in their career) in “You Are Shaun Gannon,” an acerbic and cocksure reaction to former Muncie poet Shaun Gannon’s screed “I Am Shaun Gannon,” which, like the song, combats hubris with humbling reality.
Live, and acoustic, at Muncie's Village Green Records:
And, if you're curious, here's the poem that inspired the song.
But the true charm of “You Are Shaun Gannon” is the song’s arrangement. Sam Shafer’s cyclical, melodic guitar, doused completely in reverb and delay, Schepper’s driving staccato drum beat, and Jayson Homyak’s elaborate production flourishes contrast rather severely with the rest of Savages. “You Are Shaun Gannon” is Savages’s most star-reaching moment.
Bonesetters have been knocking around Indy for under a year after building a solid foundation in Muncie. A lot of great bands have come out of Muncie, from Indy’s own Everything, Now!, to the defunct Everthus the Deadbeats, to Philly’s Arrah and the Ferns, etc. But few of those bands have met as warm and fanatical embrace as they did in Muncie. That makes sense. Muncie’s a small community, and there isn’t much competition.
The ghosts of misbegotten and neglected bands probably haunt every small venue in every major city the country. Most are bands that simply couldn’t get traction in a crowded scene. They’re victims of the fickle tastes of trendsetters, or saturation, or band in-fighting, or a simple occurrence of unfortunate circumstances. As promising as Bonesetters are, we, as a community, can’t let that happen. Go to one of their shows. Hear Snodgrass give the song “Jesus” a sweet, cathartic treatment; hear new drummer Cody Davis’s militaristic drumming; watch Shafer’s deft handling of guitar, keys, and trumpet; hear Rader’s melodic and driving bass.
Savages isn’t a perfect album. It’s a good album spotted with imperfections, but Snodgrass, Shafer, and Rader crafted a stubbornly unadorned album that serves as a blueprint for the band from here on out. Despite its flaws (and there are few), there are also beautiful moments where the band’s promise and its performance meet in a moment of synchronicity.
In those moments, at least, Bonesetters are great.
Check out the rest of Bonesetters music here at Musical Family Tree, but be sure to go buy the album at their Bandcamp page