May 24, 2017

LP: Bonnie Doon - Dooner Nooner

Bonnie Doon does their debut in their own weird and wonderful way.

The first time I ever saw Ottawa post-punk four-piece Bonnie Doon perform was on Valentine's Day in a semi-secret warehouse space that has, of course, since closed down. All of the band members were wearing wedding dresses and lead singer Lesley Demon had written “666” across her forehead in red lipstick. In addition to singing songs about salt-stained Uggs and local pizza dives, the band covered “Jeepster” by T. Rex, one of my favorite songs in the whole world. I felt simultaneously enamored and genuinely scared, an emotional contradiction that all good punk music embodies. Three years in the making, Dooner Nooner is Bonnie Doon's first release since their self-titled EP in 2014. The group is a post-punk band without the trappings of the genre, drawing sonic influence from Dolly Parton, Black Sabbath and The Ventures just as much as they do from Gang of Four and The Au Pairs. Their unlikely genre-fusing is proof the group is authentically weird – that they have not one, but two bassists, is as much a testament to this as the fact that I have seen members dressed in both shark and Jesus costumes on stage.

Defying conventions of sound and structure, most of the songs on Dooner Nooner are under three minutes, but also rebuke the traditional verse-chorus-verse pop format. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell what exactly the songs are about, but that's probably the point: Bonnie Doon is not so much about the words they sing as about the feeling the words inspire. And that feeling, more often than not, is to dance like David Byrne in a big suit. Dooner Nooner has a cinematic quality to it, establishing itself from the start as the long-lost score for a B-movie about a group of surfing witches – a plot that would make sense considering the band describes their sound as “spooky beach punk.” The album begins with “Haunted Life,” a slow heavy metal groove that resembles something a coven would chant to on a full moon while doing a ritual spell (“Oh haunted life / Born to die!” are the song's sole lyrics). The groove continues on “Sandy's Song,” a talk-sung short story about riding in a dune buggy and getting a sunburn with an excellent clap breakdown and schoolyard chant sung by Demon: “CRV / DVD / ESPN / LOL / GO TO HELL / HEY YOU SMELL!” The band spins another yarn on “Ghost Story,” a country-surf ballad told from the perspective of a dead woman haunting a saloon. “Panty Twister,” a song that was recently included on the Pentagon Black Compilation Vol.2, has a more traditional post-punk sound and features some guest saxophone à la X-Ray Spex. The album ends with “B Hole,” a two-minute ripper that, with its buzzsaw bass tone and deadpan vocals, I assumed was about the futility of life until Demon informed me that the group actually wrote it about butts. As usual, Bonnie Doon surprised me. At this point, however, I should know that whatever they do, they'll do it in their own weird and wonderful way.


Listen to Bonnie Doon on bandcamp.

Alanna Why is a musician and writer from Ottawa, ON., Canada. She used to play in the pop-punk band BB Cream and is currently working on her upcoming musical project, So Sensitive. Follow her on Twitter @alanna_why.