Something compels me to tell you, before I describe any aspect of this album, that it is not the leaky turd pile you probably think it is. With that in mind, Dead Man’s Bones is a project featuring The Notebook’s Ryan Gosling (yes that The Notebook’s Ryan Gosling) and some dude you never heard of (Zach Shields) trying out various instruments (some of which they reportedly don’t know how to use) with accompaniment from the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir.
Fortunately, though, the new DMB’s self-titled debut sounds less like a movie-star’s ego trip and more like the piece of outsider art its cover’s exclamation — “Never let a lack of talent get you down!” — makes it out to be.
“Intro” kicks off with some gloomy thunderstorm ambience and spoken vows “to find, you my love in the magic of life after death,” and the album keeps that same gloomy tone throughout. “Dead Hearts” plays against a thumping-heart beat that gradually accelerates to a panicked horror-film pounding, and “In the Room Where You Sleep”’s creepy-ass title and spooky Nuggets organ fills aren’t made any cheerier by its chorus of syncopated hand claps. Ditto the cherubic children’s voices calling “lambs to the slaughter” in “Buried in Water.” This album’s ridiculous death drive could easily leave it stranded in Hot Topic town, but the kid’s choir gives mortality a gloaming Ray Bradbury quality, and the shameless aping of Nick Cave and Tom Waits is enough to make you forget that Gosling is gonna grow up to be James Garner.
— Jeremy Martin