Home Music Sunglasses For Jaws: Everybody’s Made of Bones

Sunglasses For Jaws: Everybody’s Made of Bones

Sunglasses For Jaws is the production team of David Bardon and Oscar Robertson with the actor – and as it turns out, singer – Olivier Huband, plus Charlotte Kemp Muhl (The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger) and an array of collaborators and, not surprising given the group’s pedigree, it’s a classy and immaculate-sounding release. Everybody’s Made of Bones is a concept album with a narrative that is centered around the interior life of an eccentric and deluded character named Frank as he has a nervous breakdown. As with most concept albums though, the theme would count for nothing if the songs didn’t stand up on their own; but they do. Indeed, awareness of the theme is in a way an unwelcome distraction, and it’s fair to say that projecting the concept onto the songs makes some of them feel more inconsequential than they otherwise might have.

The music is rich, smooth and multilayered, something like the off-the-wall experimental pop of a group like HOTT MT, but with their more bizarre edges smoothed down for radio play. There are shades of Air about the opening track “Walk Me Home,” and like the French duo, Sunglasses For Jaws make music that is so smooth on the ear that it’s easy to overlook how skillfully it’s been put together. At the core of the more-or-less title track “Bone” for instance, there is a superb jazzy performance by Bardon (bass) and Robertson (drums), but that’s just the glue that holds the song together, and in addition to a fantastic, dramatic vocal – where Hubard is as much actor as singer – there are layers of synth, trumpet and orchestration, but the sound remains smooth and dynamic, even when incorporating dub and reggae elements, and never sounds cluttered or flabby. Musically, it’s a far more varied album than it actually feels like it is, taking elements of funk, electronica, pop, art-rock and the occasional bit of psychedelia and jazz seamlessly in its stride. Although on paper quite different songs, the segues between the near-rap/funk of “What Does it Look Like,” the kind of futuristic vocoder-tones and garage rock hip-hop of “Strategy” and the Zappa-esque slow groove of “Woke Up from Something” feels natural and smooth in the context of the album’s flow.

The obvious word for Everybody’s Made of Bones, especially bearing in mind its concept, is ‘cinematic’, but although there are shifts of mood and feeling along the way, it’s only when it gets to the ravishing, sun-drenched closer of “Over” that the word really feels appropriate. Throughout the album, Frank never comes across to the listener in a particularly clear way – compare him with the very differently eccentric and terrifying Frank from Tom Waits’s Frank’s Wild Years – and, despite Hubard’s excellent and varied performances, the songs stand up more as songs than they do as the portrait of an individual. The album definitely engages throughout, but it’s only on “Over”, with its mood of elegiac exhaustion, that the narrative becomes more discernible, and the engagement finally feels emotional. This feeling is heightened by the details; the atmospheric guitars and backing vocals, which have something of the evocative feel of the female voices on Lou Reed’s Street Hassle – and above all, Hubard’s husky, Jesus and Mary Chain-like vocal, his best performance on the album. As the music reaches a crescendo of near-dissonant noise and massive, industrial drums before falling apart and fading away, it really does feel like an ending, tying the album together in a far more dramatic and less bathetic way than expected.

Overall, Everybody’s Made of Bones is an impressively realized piece of work, all the more so because, like the best baroque pop, it never feels as weird as it really is. Spiritually somewhat descended from the sophisticated but accessible art-punk-new-wave of Godley and Creme’s 1979 album Freeze Frame, it has the downside – depending on how snobbish you are about such things – of being the kind of record that sounds like a bunch of virtuoso session musicians on their day off, rather than a band as such. But that’s really only a criticism if you think it is.

Summary
Everybody’s Made of Bones is a beautifully-realized, cinematic journey of an album, making up in depth of sound what it lacks in depth of meaning and feeling
70 %
Smoothly unorthodox

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