Back to Live & CD Reviews

Lucky Day: "Bonedraggers EP"

A tongue in cheek work of experimentation

Simon Williams at Own Beach / photo courtesy of Facebook

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

It was a clear day at Owen Beach, and I was sitting on the sidelines with my back turned away from the sand and the sunbathers and toward the green and rising peaks of Vashon Island when Simon Williams asked me a question, "Have you heard it yet?" Simon Williams, being The Tacoma School of The Arts resident oddball instrumentalist and genius sad sack songwriter, has in his short time as a working artist built himself an impressive body of work that turns out new and interesting experiments or songs almost weekly, so I imagine he forgave me when I asked him what exactly the "it" that I should have been listening to, was.

The "Bonedraggers EP," he said with a smile. "David, Connor, Jonnah and I, we recorded something the other night, have you heard it?"

I shook my head, but I could tell Simon was ecstatic about whatever it was that he wanted to show me, and so during a nature walk across Point Defiance Park, via a speaker on his phone, I bathed in the glory of Lucky Day's Bonedraggers EP.

As it turns out, Simon had attached himself to a band of crazy misfits, comprised at the time of Connor Desmond, David Pierce and Jonna Isaac, and donned the name Lucky Day. The group had recorded a three-track EP entitled Bonedraggers EP - which they claimed to name due to the fact that they all felt that it sounded stupid and ugly - with the longest of the three songs taking the form of a dominating absurdly long 45-minute jam session. More on that later.

Bonedraggers EP commences with a simple song entitled, "Frosted Mini Wheats," a track that bears a strong similarity to the rest of Williams' oddball material. Beginning with simple ukulele strumming, Williams in his signature off pitch whine, creates a dance of nonsensical lyricism that the band reinforces with harsh sounding harmonies, coming in to complete his sentences to add an additional sense of force. Despite the simplicity of the song, the style in which the band harmonizes with Williams' voice is unusually and distinctly Krautrock-ian along the lines of Faust's "Meadow Meal." Like the rest of the material in Williams' canon, "Frosted Mini Wheats" deals in the subject of love but unlike his solo material, he sounds happy here, embracing a sense of jubilant excitement while still keeping in touch with his unique brand of humor. This is a refreshing change of pace for Williams, a songwriter who deals primarily with the sad and melancholy.

Though "Frosted Mini Wheats" is a charming minute and a half intro to Bonedraggers EP, it's the 45-minute long jam session at the core of this thing that is the star of the show. Recorded in Williams' bedroom at around 2 in the morning in just two takes, this jam session casually entitled "B nhjby uhbkio" represents one of the most bizarre experiments to ever come out of the SOTA camp. For the first 20 minutes, each band member takes turns reading from children's books borrowed from Williams' younger sister Zoe, and are accompanied by an array of daunting almost frightening sounds that typically take the forms of heavily distorted sounding guitars, and heavy electric bass drones. The voices of the band members feel almost panicked for much of the time, yelling to be heard over the tornado of a soundscape that they have created. From the storybooks they have chosen, each read only a single sentence before passing it on to the next member. Out of context, these statements feel highly surreal and become almost frightening with the band's music slowly building to become an overwhelming force of nature. In terms of sonic quality, the production is understandably murky. Nevertheless, this does not weigh it down; in fact, the lo-fi quality of production adds a gritty atmosphere to the whole thing creating a sound that is intimidating as it is dirty and fascinating. Sonically, the best way I can describe it is to imagine The Flaming Lips and Animal Collective sharing an LSD trip and attempting to cover The Velvet Underground's "European Son." Though not quite as noise oriented as that track, "B nhjby uhbkio" feels like being tossed into a typhoon, creating an emotional high made possible by the panic and confusion that the track brings to the table.

"Verse James" closes Bonedragger EP with another song that could fit easily into the rest of Williams' body of work. After the baffling experimentation of "B nhjby uhbkio," "Verse James" feels like a welcome come down, similar to following "Revolution 9" with "Good Night, Good Night" on The Beatles White Album. "Verse James" is an incredibly passionate track and takes its cues from "Frosted Mini Wheats" with Williams singing lead and Connor and David backing him up. Although less Krautrock influenced, the band members' voices are tender and warm and give the feeling that "Verse James," much like "Good Night, Good Night" is a lullaby. The repeated use of the word "bo" derives from an inside joke and take on colloquial language between the band members and a set of key friends and adds a uniquely personal layer of meaning to an already charming closer. 

Bonedraggers EP is one of those rare experiments where you get the feeling that creators had generally no idea what they were doing, and were somehow able to walk away with a cohesive artistic statement. Sure, admittedly Lucky Day has created this thing as a tongue in cheek work of experimentation not meant to be taken too seriously. Sure, it isn't hard to imagine Lucky Day goofing around and creating numerous experimentations in the same line as this EP. However, the fact that these elements are all pulled together in just the right way, in just the right state of mind, with just the right group of musicians, and the fact that this band is able turn a work that is so impossibly goofy into an outright brilliant, constantly eyebrow raising and occasionally tender piece of music is truly astonishing.

Or as Marvin Gaye said to Eli Fontaine in regard to creating the legendary saxophone intro to "What's Going On" after he claimed to have been just goofing around: "You goof off exquisitely, thank you."

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search