Dinosaur Pile Up - Growing Pains

by Al Brown Rating:4 Release Date:2010-10-04

In case you wondered: yes, there are still some people who prefer Nirvana to The Pet Shop Boys. Most of them just sit at home wanking guiltily over old pictures of Courtney Love and turning in the odd snarky music review, but this lot formed a band. As a counterpoint, I must add that like most people I find it pretty hard to get excited about grunge these days - it seems like everyone has a particular band from that period that they still hold a torch for - which must be why I've sat through lovingly friend-made compilations of Mudhoney and Alice In Chains recently: both of which were absolutely Christ-awful, as any sane person would conclude. The news that Soundgarden (dear God!) are to return has hardly softened my stance on this most constrained and unambitious of sub-genres.

So yeah, it's grunge so it's noisy, and the guitar tone is, well, Nirvana-like and they do that same two-part vocal harmony that all the grunge bands did and it sounds okay. An early technical observation, however: if the drummer really can't reign in his cymbal habit, then he needs to go cold turkey, the constant, huge-in-the-mix tssh-tssh-tssh is insanely distracting.

The third track, 'Never That Together' is the catchiest of the earlier bunch, but it's pretty much pastiche: aping every one of Nirvana's trademarks (guitar tone, vocal tone, harmonies, etc.) with unnerving accuracy. Openers 'Birds & Planes' and 'Barce-loner' are unmemorable and severely lacking in the lyrics department. In fact, lyrically, it's hard to know if we're talking simply dumb, or the kind of so-dumb-we're-cool affectations favoured by fellow Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses. Gauche eco-parable 'Hey Man (Home You Ruin)' in particular sounds like the work of Symposium, Kerbdog or some other such forgotten 90s Kerrang! fodder- just check these lyrics: "Hey there mighty whale/ Hey how come you're here so long/ I suppose to you my kind are aliens". Do you see what we're struggling with here? I mean, if it's serious then it's just a very poor song, but if it's ironic then they're taking a dig at what? Environmentalists? The kind of idealistic 90s bands that they sound alot like? It's all very confusing.

It's not all bad; in fact the good songs here are really good. The simple pop of 'Maybe It's You' is a welcome respite from the pummelling. Likewise 'Hey You' starts off quiet and heartfelt and explodes into an anthemic, still heartfelt chorus. 'Broken Knee' is the highlight of the first half: a chugging, melodic juggernaut with echoes of good-period Weezer.

The main problem with the record (putting aside its fundamental rejection of originality) is it's just too full-on: there's far too much loud and not enough quiet. The heavier bits are all uninspiring, lyrically inept and unconvincing, so it's a shame there are so many of them. The more understated and melodic Dinosaur Pile-Up are, the better they get but, on the basis of this album, they don't realise it.

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