Doctor Bones Exit With A Parting Gift

2013 was a rough year for Doctor Bones. Last May Doctor Bones sacked lead singer Anthony Fama and found Zach West, which is the equivalent of kicking Iggy Pop out of your band and replacing him with Brandon Flowers.  They then went into hiding and into the studio to record their second EP.  After a startlingly great one song debut at Future Loves Past’s Lushfest, this final version of Doctor Bones lasted exactly three shows this past fall and until last Thursday there was no evidence that anything would come of it. I went to the first show and I was unimpressed yet willing to give them a chance, then by the second show I had warmed up to the new formula enough that I more than welcomed more performances.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to their third and final show. The entire time I just wanted to hear the recordings, because the band seemed really jazzed about it. I get it now. The Secrets of El Cortez is actually pretty amazing. I’m sorry to see that this is the end of Doctor Bones as upon its free release they announced their dissolution, but it’s a hell of a way to go out.

This is five solid songs of indie dance pop that really could be more celebrated if the band still existed. I have to say that they sound a lot more like The Killers on record than they did live and I like that, now that it’s months removed from their return. Every member of the band sounds fantastic, but most especially the vocals of Hannah Bones (check out “Bottom Shelf”), she really proves herself as a vocalist here.  That was one thing very noticeable about the shows, the band was tight–the powerhouse drumming of Mike Vigil, the amazing bassworks of Jess Pruitt and the brilliant angular guitar work of Chad Stark (who also makes his Doctor Bones recording debut here).

All of these songs come across as singles that will never be. “El Cortez” starts it off with a high energy synth drenched power pop delivery, the thundering drums of Vigil and the vocal harmonies are enough to draw me in alone. Clearly single material, but as I said, every song on here is radio ready and smartly timed for exactly that. “Life In A Pocket” follows in the same suit with an amazing driving guitar by Stark, with a great call and response between Zach and Hannah. This is definitely one of my favorites for the chorus alone and the refrain of “This is what you call living, this is why you’re friendless.” It’s difficult to pick your favorite on this EP, but this is a contender.

“In My Head” is another favorite and this was one I loved from the first time I saw them perform it live. It seems to be the song that suits West’s voice best and the band just whirls like a hurricane around it. Listen closely to Pruitt’s bass in the song and it will astound you, he tie it all together as the other instruments are a manic flurry of pure electricity. Meanwhile, “Bottom Shelf” starts off with a more dreamy atmosphere and as mentioned before, brilliantly highlights Hannah’s vocals. I’d love to hear her do a solo version of this. This is probably the song that most makes me believe that she could lead a band of her own with how powerful her vocals have grown.  ”Fast Forward” finishes off the EP perfectly, starting with keys and an acoustic guitar, before exploding with the rhythm section and crushing your mind in a guitar maelstrom.  In the end, sadly, Zach took off for Vegas and Doctor Bones is no more.  It’s a bittersweet  snapshot of what might have been and closes the book on Doctor Bones after two EPs and three variations of the band, but it leaves the question, what will happen to these incredibly talented folks who shared such a high energy vision?  If you ask me they should change their name, soldier on and back Hannah as the lead singer, I can only hope. They work so well together, it would be a shame to lose it all.

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