Babel Review: Ruby Bones


via Babel Reviews

Rating: B+

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Ruby Bones - Ruby BonesIt’s tough out there for a guitar-based band, with the charts seemingly allergic to any artist that puts a little riffage front and center. New Jersey-based indie rockers Ruby Bones take that as a dare on their self-titled debut album. Not only is this a proudly guitar-heavy record, they’re mixed so high you can’t even hope to ignore them. But the band isn’t just here to batter you into the ground. While they certainly fit the contemporary indie-punk mold of Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, and White Lung, Ruby Bones set themselves apart through the sheer quantity and quality of the hooks crafted by lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Chris Nova. Oh, and a little sax-a-ma-phone.

Ruby Bones, the album, kicks off with the indisputable one-two-three punch of “Bad Bad Blood,” “Heart of Darkness,” and “You I Want.” Nova steals a page from Lady Gaga’s playbook on the intro track, expertly employing repetition to reach “Poker Face” levels of pre-chorus catchiness (“oh m-m-m-my, my bad bad blood”). Meanwhile, bassist FC Spies and drummer James Janocha know just when to bottle up and when to explode, creating tension with Nova’s guitar that primes the song’s chorus for maximum impact. Lead singles “Heart of Darkness” and “You I Want” keep the ball rolling in fine form, each boasting the kind of monster chorus alternative-rock radio used to go gaga over in the days before Twenty One Pilots.

And then, the band lets its Jersey show in the best way possible, bringing in Denis Daley to lay down some fat sax on “Blackest Ice” and “No Fun.” While Daley serves a largely supporting role on the former, lending it flourishes of Springsteen-esque classic rock before grabbing a Big Man-style solo, he takes center stage on “No Fun” with a sax lead seemingly inspired by the iconic riff of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” He shows up again to bolster one of Nova’s best vocal hooks on “Into the Night,” sinking in his own claws with a lead that gives the hard-charging pre-verse instrumental a satisfying lift. “Hard to Move” rounds out the album’s sax section, and this four-piece lineup is a good look for the band. It’ll be interesting to see where they take things on album #2.

Ruby Bones’ lone weak point comes in “Gone Gone Gone,” which coasts a bit on Pixies-inspired “oohs” and “aahs.” There’s also a turn of phrase in the chorus that could use some smoothing out (“And in the darkness we will take, we will take off all our clothes”). But it’s sandwiched between “Chemical” and “Into the Night,” two of the album’s better tracks, so it’s easy to forgive. “Reaper” then siphons some of White Lung’s breathless forward velocity in the album’s penultimate slot, and with its anthemic “whoa-oh-oh” outro, it’s tempting to wish the record ended then and there. But alas, it’s a nitpick that would have denied the world the excellent “You’re Still Here,” which anchors itself on a killer bassline from Spies. Think of it as an especially great bonus track, and you’ll have the best of both worlds.

In the end, Ruby Bones is a fantastic debut that comes as a breath of fresh air in today’s music scene. The band blasts out short, loud, catchy rock tunes with huge guitars and absolutely no apologies or pretension, resulting in an album that would sound equally great in a dingy basement, blasting from speakers on the beach, or being shouted back at the stage in a giant arena. Let’s all hope the winds of change blow fiercely through the industry sooner rather than later, because Ruby Bones has the potential to do some serious damage once they get their foot in the door.

Standout Tracks
“Bad Bad Blood”
“You I Want”
“Into the Night”