Monday, November 02, 2009

Bonedome’s "Thinktankubator"

Bonedome is the nom de roque of Allan Hayslip, a Dallas muso who’s been at it since ’84 with more bands than you can shake a stick at, including SPAM, Crackbox, Vibrolux, Prince Jellyfish, Rock Star Karaoke, and the Darren Kozelsky Band. I got to know him around the cleavage of the decades, when he was playing bass in a coupla bands with some once-and-future Nervebreakers: punk covers in the Punk Rock Dinosaurs and spaghetti western/surf-rock with the Big Guns. Thinktankubator is his first venture into frontman/sole writer territory, and it’s a stunning surprise.

Moody, quirky, melodic-but-aggressive pop rock is the order of the day here – the kind of thing an XTC fan might have dreamt up. The proximate models I’m hearing are Cincinnati’s beloved Psychodots (albeit less guitar-solo-centric), or closer to home, Goodwin and especially Reggie Rueffer’s brainiac-rawk apotheoses Spot and the Hochimen.

No surprise, then, to learn that HCM guitarist and ex-UNT jazzcat Ed McMahon – who will come to your house and personally award a giant prize of fretwork that alternately rings, grinds, and skronks – is all over this shiny silver disc; there are no coincidences. It’s hard to say which antecedent the vocal blend here -- in a lower register that it’s rare to hear in this kind of music – reminds me of more: Chad Rueffer in Spot, David Bowie on Lodger, or maybe the Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler. Whatevah, it's a win.

What matters more 'n anything with this sort of thing is the songs, and Bonedome’s got 'em. Clever wordplay is one of Hayslip's strengths, starting with his opening declaration, "I hereby resolve not to do anything I don't want to do / Excepting of course when I have to" (from "Sandman"). "Fade Away" negates Buddy Holly with its opening line ("I'm going to tell you how it cannot be"), while "Slow Jesus Xing" perversely evokes the Hollies ("He ain't heavy, he's fat and American") while sounding for all the world like an outtake from the Spot album.

The vocal similarity to Bowie comes to the fore in "I Can Lose You," Hayslip's take on the "Space Oddity" story, replete with jangling 12-string, while "Easy" sounds exactly like the alt-rock murder ballad it is (unlike, say, Died Pretty's "Sweetheart," which sounded like a love song). Bonedome saves the best for last, with "Steven," which casts a jaundiced eye on rock 'n' roll self-destructives, and the self-explanatory, deeply felt "Custody Lullabye," where he drops the cleverness and just says what he has to say over a lush bed of vocal harmonies. Records like thisun only come along every few years or so, and when they do, they're always welcome.


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