Sean Bones (née Sullivan) has described the sound of his debut solo record as “music that might cause people to scratch their heads a bit, only to realize that scratching their heads would make a good dance move,” and to be fair this is a fairly accurate self analogy for the (sort of) former Sam Champion member.
Rings, Bones’ take on a reggae record, is a complete genre leap away from the indie rock sound Sam Champion plump for, born out of Bones’ love of the genre and some charming demos he made for some mates last year. It just so happens those demos got him a record deal, and his first album for Frenchkiss is 11 tracks of lovely (if inoffensive) dancehall. As a reggae record it could be considered too `standards’ based, with purists not liking its light feel and sharp production, but as an alt-pop record it’s pretty much perfect, with it’s richness of melody and hooks added to the standard dancehall grooves Bones emulates to a tee.
Single and album opener “Easy Street” could be plucked straight out of a Trojan box set, with its ska rhythm and mango tree lyrics. “I’ll be hanging where the jungle meets the street” is as loyal to the Kingston sound as you’ll get, and it’s brilliant! “Coco,” from the same side, is even catchier with its beautifully sung chorus.
Bones’ voice at times can seem a weak amidst songs that need a stronger vocal, but this would be a minor crib from an album whose main purpose is to get heads bobbing. The second half of Rings, although cut with the same cloth as the first half, is a bit more interesting as Bones incorporates some Lee Perry-isms and some ghostly Specials-like sounds to support his delightful songs, not to mention the odd `indie’ guitar lick. It’s the half where the real gold on the record can be found. “Visions,” the blatantly titled “Dancehall,” “Captain Tying Knots” and (I’ve started so I’ll finish) “Turn Them” are a flawless closing session. “Turn Them” is particularly gorgeous with its mysterious female co-vocalist and makes you want to hit play again.
At one stage I questioned whether my warmth towards this lovely record was due to the fact that I’ve been starved of a half decent reggae record for so long, that I subconsciously imagined it to be better than it is. Those doubts didn’t last long, however, as I was far too busy scratching my head while dancing to worry about it.
The Specials – The Specials
The Clash – Sandinista
Congos – Heart of the Congos