HYPE CHECK: M.I.A. What? Janelle Monae Who? Ebony Bones Makes Her Bid For 2009’s Avant-Pop Crown At Bowery Ballroom Show

Words and Photos by Andrew Parks

The Artist and Her Latest Album: Ebony Bones, Bones of My Bones (available as a Japanese import; U.S. version due through an undetermined label)

What’s Been Said: “With a truly wild wardrobe, a rocking band, and a raw sound somewhere in between M.I.A. and Talking Heads (just listen for yourself–Harry Potter fans should beware that MySpace profile is slightly NSFW), Ebony’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. Just don’t go blind staring at the slightly seizure-inducing video for ‘Don’t Fart on My Heart,’ which looks more suited for the Tate Modern than MTV.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Ebony Bones is the difference between Steve Coogan and Jason Alexander if Steve Coogan was a band and Jason Alexander was a band. This is why ESG are from the US and wear sweatpants and Ebony Bones is from the UK and she wears clown make up and gigantic couture chain link necklaces.” – FADER

“…pretty damn thrilling, a skronking ten or so piece band backing the woman herself (dressed like something out of The Fifth Element, possibly), lashing us with chaotic slews of er…  dunno, what do you call this? DIY funk oddness will probably do me.” – Drowned In Sound

“An Internet favorite, Ms Bones is a hardworking independent British artist whose attention to detail and daring, uncompromising image matches her colorful, genre-smashing sounds. A cultural sponge, absorbing the multi-faceted world of modern day London, Ebony has graced the pages of Dazed and Confused and even wowed the socks off of Timbaland.” – Clash

“Perhaps thee most chattered about act in London right now, Miss Ebony Bones is a one of a kind producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and all-round femme fatale who mixes up post-punk stylings, with pure girl sass. Enlisting her crew of rhythm section and backing vocalists, the Ebony Bones live experience is one part punk rock show, one part Mardi Gras carnival parade.” – Time Out

Our Take: Ebony’s attitude about all of the above is best summed up by an MTV interview from earlier this year, where she said, “The one thing about taking my time and not rushing into anything is I’ve been able to have so much more control creatively of the whole project, and that’s the real magic for me. I love bands like Funkadelic who made their costumes in their own van and put them on the same night–very DIY.”

No kidding. While she could have worked with just about anyone on her debut album–M.I.A. and Grace Jones are both major fans–Ebony decided to do nearly everything herself, from B.O.M.B.‘s art direction, arrangements and overall production to lead bits of percussion, guitar, bass, strings, organ and synths. Considering she got her start as a beloved soap star, earning “Sexiest Female” nominations in the British Soap Awards three times, this is essentially the equivalent of someone from All My Children dropping the Daytime Emmy circuit for DayGlo-dipped clothes and manic dance music.

Such a brash decision would be career suicide in the hands of most. Ebony’s aware of it, too. As she admits in a MySpace posting, “Making the decision to produce, arrange and write this collective of work I guess was a brave one. Brave or dumb. But its a reflection of my personality…as fragmented as it might be. This debut album is about Audacity. Having the Audacity to step outside the circumferences of what you’ve been expected to be in life, despite the rules, or what the book says. Chances are I’ll only have this audacity whilst I’m young, so I might as well use it.”

Hypeworthy? Absolutely, but the girl’s gotta get on with it already. After all, most of the initial Ebony Bones buzz happened last year, which explains why her Bowery Ballroom show was far from sold-out–populated by nothing but hardcore fans and itchy A&R folks. Oh, and a handful of curious onlookers like us, who were immediately pulled into Ebony’s stylized world of blinding off-Broadway costumes and ballsy party music that transcends genres and trends. Quite organically, too, as Ebony and her seven-piece live band (including backup singers who slap soda bottles and dance like someone’s unloading a pistol at their feet) are all natural born performers, people who won’t rest until an entire crowd’s losing themselves like a gang of uncoordinated fools.

Here’s hoping the record that just cracked Japan’s Top 10 doesn’t disappoint when it arrives here this fall. If nothing else, the clanging chords and percussion-splattered melodies of “Warrior,” and the wobbly bass lines and restless, synth-driven rhythms of “In G.O.D. We Trust (God, Oil &  Drugs),” will make for some killer singles.


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