Bottle Up & Go: These Bones

Dirty electric blues rock that sidesteps nostalgic pitfalls for something between the Black Keys and early Butthole Surfers.

Bottle Up & Go

These Bones

Label: Kill Normal
US Release Date: 2008-07-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

“This is more than just the blues / it’s depression rule”, sings Keenan Mitchell at the outset of “Wayward Son”. Sure is, right now. Economy’s so far in the toilet we’ll need more than just a plunger to extract it. “Depression” has moved from its former lone role of conjuring up memories from a time at the dawn of the dustbowl that most can’t remember, to a new low on the horizon.

Then again, Mitchell and Fareed Sajan, the duo behind Bottle Up & Go, are just college students. What business do they have singing such world-weary tunes? I can’t answer that, and it’s pointless to throw in clichés like, “they have old souls.” There’s certainly a question of legitimacy when someone who’s been legal for a year (or less) moans about reaching for the bottle. But, forgetting all that and focusing instead on the music (being a good critic this time out), These Bones is a tight, white-hot blast of dirty, noisy blues-rock.

BUAG (as MySpace affectionately calls them) manage that elusive feat of being a couple of young hipsters in love with the blues, without sounding like a couple of young hipsters in love with the blues. In other words, Mitchell and Sajan have avoided Kings of Leon and gone straight for The Black Keys. Well, straight for Leadbelly and Robert Johnson, really. In fact, Mr. Ledbetter’s song “Ain’t Going Down” appears on Bones as a cover, a radical departure from the original in which Mitchell’s voice drowns itself in echo and guest saxophonist Lucas Carrico does throws up a series of menacing squeals and ephemera. Carrico’s sax adds a novel new dimension to the dirty blues-rock formula, halfway between Gibby Haynes’ acidic long tones on early Butthole Surfer records, and James Chance’s contorted funk. The sax works best when busted in, secret weapon-style, as on “51 Weeks, 7 Days” and “Low”. Perhaps what works best about Bones is that BUAG aren’t married to the blues as a nostalgia trip. “These Bones” switches skins to grunge-punk, for one of those best songs Mudhoney never wrote. “Bones” is also a fantastic proving ground for Sajan, whose skin pounds are encompassing without being overwhelming, collapsing into cacophony when the higher power that punches through these songs demands it.

Remember that question about whether two college kids are the best prophets of sour times? Let’s just try to forget it. With music this shit-hot, the fact that Mitchell isn’t really a middle-aged dirt farmer with decades of liquor swilling under his belt is really a moot point. The vocals have the right level of distortion, just hot enough to give it some fuzz, and that’s really all that needs to be said, with the exception of one song on the album. “All My Trials” closes These Bones with the following lines: “Some say there’s a heaven / some say there’s a hell / I don’t know the first / But I have known the other well”. Yeah, it’s hard to hear something like that and not raise an eyebrow, perhaps, but the lyrics work well, and before you know it, Sylvia Ryerson’s violin weeps along, and then issues of precocity once again seem trivial. The world’s going down, and if BUAG can get inspired to move up, more power to them.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.