Dinosaur Pile-Up – Growing Pains

Band – Dinosaur Pile-Up
Album – Growing Pains
Label – Friends Vs Records/Big Brain Records
Release date – 4th October
Sounds like – The record Dave Grohl SHOULD be producing but isn’t.

So what do you do when your bassist and drummer quit and you’re just about to record your debut album? Bother to get anyone else in? Naa, screw that – can you act as your own rhythm section? You can? Ah sweet, well go for it then! Essentially, ‘Growing Pains’ is ‘Foo Fighters #2’ in that sense. Matt Bigland; the brainchild and leader of Dinosaur Pile-Up, recorded his band’s debut album, playing all the instruments much like his hero, Dave Grohl did on his first full length. Props to Bigland; an obvious amount of sweat and determination has gone into this 12 track release; and to complete just a project on his own is a great achievement.

‘Growing Pains’ is an apt title. Well, not so the ‘Pains’ part; more the ‘Growing’ element. I won’t lie to you; this album takes time to absorb. If it was any denser, you could hammer it into the ground and use it to support a fence. It’s a grower; something that you can chip away at; like unwrapping an enormous present at Christmas – it’s both frustrating and exciting at first; especially when working through the miles of sellotape, but the rewards within make it all worthwhile. This is the same for ‘Growing Pains’; which at times does feel – ok, it IS one-dimensional. It’s a rock record. It’s a loud, scrappy, shoulder-shrugging, disorientated barrage of sound that doesn’t reinvent by any stretch of the imagination but makes up for this in volume and attitude.

It should be stated that Bigland does do a damn fine Dave Grohl impression, circa ‘Foo Fighters’ and ‘The Colour and the Shape’ respectively; two albums that I imagine are on heavy rotation inside his head. Bigland’s voice, whilst it retains the same strained drawl and occasional yelp of the nicest man in rock, it isn’t without its own personality and charm. At times he’s somewhat more casually upbeat; especially on opening track, ‘Birds and Planes’ where it almost feels jaunty despite the subject matter of escapism and the dissolving of a friendship. Bigland has quite a laid-back voice; if it was any more relaxed it would be horizontal. That’s not to say he has a boring tone; it’s actually cool – his vocals are quite suave; almost to the point of being arrogant but not contemptuous.  They even follow a sing-song; happy-go-lucky beat on ‘Never That Together’; which is about a broken relationship and the struggle to recover from said break up. Bigland kind of throws hope into the song as well; “I’m alright, but only if you fix me first, you’re so kind…” – it’s as if his attempted reconciliation with the other person shows some hope for both parties, but there is still that wariness.

The thing about ‘Growing Pains’ is the vast amount of stone-cold earworms that Dinosaur Pile-Up has created. Sure, they take time but once they’ve burrowed their way into your brain it’s hard to disconnect them from that process that has you reach for the air-guitar and begin muttering chords under your breath. ‘Barceloner’ is a prime example of this. It’s loud, brash and stupid; a bit like your mother-in-law. – Yet unlike her, it’s something you want to listen to more and more. From the twanging guitar intro, to the faded in drum roll and the scuzzy, punk rock drive; it pretty much slays. It’s like it fell off the end of the first Foo Fighters album – it’s the younger brother of ‘I’ll Stick Around.’ You can tell at the end Bigland just loses it, and sets about creating as much fucking noise as possible, clattering the drums to pieces and ending on a scrawl of crunching power-chords and mangled beats.

Is it too much of a coincidence that the chorus on ‘Mona Lisa’ consists of the words “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!” similar to the Foo Fighters (yeah, keep mentioning them) song ‘Alone + Easy Target?’ It’s certainly an eyebrow raiser. Not that it matters; the Nirvana-style grunge shift and raucous clamour the track creates tears it away from the suspect lyrical pairing.

One can’t but help feel there’s an incredibly laid back attitude to all these songs. Despite the majority of the tracks being akin to having an amp stuffed in both ears, whilst some maniac rips through ‘the best of grunge’ there’s an almost apathetic sense to certain songs; especially the titles ‘Hey Man (Home You Ruin)’, ‘Hey You’ and the weird Jekyll/Hyde nature of Bigland; who switches from angry, shouty man to the lethargic stoner drawl of a pothead just waking up from his last high. ‘My Rock ‘N Roll’ is an example of this trope. In the breaks where the guitars aren’t threatening to punch a gaping hole in your chest, Bigland’s vocals are drawling, incoherent and feel scrapped together. When it kicks into gear; he’s this shrieking ball of incandescent rage of emotion as the track lurches and thuds about like a drunken dinosaur (pile up).
‘Traynor’ is perhaps the simplest and heaviest track on the album; combining that intense grunge rock wall with the odd pop-melody giving the track bounce, but still managing to hold on to this sturdy, imposing nature. The staggering breakdown and shout-along chorus of “WHAT TRAYNOR WANTS, WHAT TRAYNOR WANTS!” isn’t going to win any prizes for it’s meaningful lyrics, but is perfect to scream back at the band in a live setting. In contrast to this, ‘Hey You’ is a melancholy, mostly acoustic ballad that builds into an aggressive salvo of slightly one-dimensional angst and bitterness. ‘All Around The World’ is basically the ‘this song is about being in a band’ song following that similar path of massive build ups and a strange prolonged and pretentious break before kicking back into the main body of the track; supposedly for dramatic effect.

There’s something remarkably infectious about this album – I’ve actually been spinning it non-stop for the last two weeks; most notably ‘Hey Man (Home You Ruin)’; which isn’t exactly a groundbreaking piece of musicianship, but my god the chorus is so fucking good and Bigland’s voice, which dips between this weird slur, to a rising off-key shriek and some almost Joey Cape-mannerisms make it the highlight of this 12 tracker. The breakdown at the 3 minute mark is a noticeably awesome and thunderous crunch of insane joy; (see also the mini drum roll near the end – you can tell Bigland threw that in for a laugh).

For the record, ‘Growing Pains’ isn’t really any new ideas; BUT it’s one hell of a 90’s-style revival heavy rock record and if you relish the sound of someone making noisy, anthemic racket with overwhelming amounts of gusto and passion, then Dinosaur Pile-Up’s debut is a recommended listen. Also, I realise it’s been repeated to death, but if you’re a Foo Fighters fan then this really is the album; or perhaps the songs they should be recording and therefore you should own the shit out of this, no excuses.

Links

Dinosaur Pile Up Official Site
Dinosaur Pile Up Myspace
Friends Vs Records

By Ross Macdonald

Lizard Hips

Lizard Hips

Junior Vice President of Keep It Fast. In other news: I work in social media, talk about dinosaurs, run a book club and have amazing facial hair. I am also a male man who is still not dead.

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