So what do you do when your bassist and drummer quit and youâ€™re just about to record your debut album? Bother to get anyone else in? Naa, screw that â€“ can you act as your own rhythm section? You can? Ah sweet, well go for it then! Essentially, â€˜Growing Painsâ€™ is â€˜Foo Fighters #2â€™ in that sense. Matt Bigland; the brainchild and leader of Dinosaur Pile-Up, recorded his bandâ€™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.
â€˜Growing Painsâ€™ is an apt title. Well, not so the â€˜Painsâ€™ part; more the â€˜Growingâ€™ element. I wonâ€™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. Itâ€™s a grower; something that you can chip away at; like unwrapping an enormous present at Christmas â€“ itâ€™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 â€˜Growing Painsâ€™; which at times does feel â€“ ok, it IS one-dimensional. Itâ€™s a rock record. Itâ€™s a loud, scrappy, shoulder-shrugging, disorientated barrage of sound that doesnâ€™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 â€˜Foo Fightersâ€™ and â€˜The Colour and the Shapeâ€™ respectively; two albums that I imagine are on heavy rotation inside his head. Biglandâ€™s voice, whilst it retains the same strained drawl and occasional yelp of the nicest man in rock, it isnâ€™t without its own personality and charm. At times heâ€™s somewhat more casually upbeat; especially on opening track, â€˜Birds and Planesâ€™ 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. Thatâ€™s not to say he has a boring tone; itâ€™s actually cool â€“ his vocals are quite suave; almost to the point of being arrogant but not contemptuous.Â They even follow a sing-song; happy-go-lucky beat on â€˜Never That Togetherâ€™; 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; â€œIâ€™m alright, but only if you fix me first, youâ€™re so kindâ€¦â€ â€“ itâ€™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 â€˜Growing Painsâ€™ is the vast amount of stone-cold earworms that Dinosaur Pile-Up has created. Sure, they take time but once theyâ€™ve burrowed their way into your brain itâ€™s hard to disconnect them from that process that has you reach for the air-guitar and begin muttering chords under your breath. â€˜Barcelonerâ€™ is a prime example of this. Itâ€™s loud, brash and stupid; a bit like your mother-in-law. â€“ Yet unlike her, itâ€™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. Itâ€™s like it fell off the end of the first Foo Fighters album â€“ itâ€™s the younger brother of â€˜Iâ€™ll Stick Around.â€™ 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 â€˜Mona Lisaâ€™ consists of the words â€œGET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!â€ similar to the Foo Fighters (yeah, keep mentioning them) song â€˜Alone + Easy Target?â€™ Itâ€™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 canâ€™t but help feel thereâ€™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 â€˜the best of grungeâ€™ thereâ€™s an almost apathetic sense to certain songs; especially the titles â€˜Hey Man (Home You Ruin)â€™, â€˜Hey Youâ€™ 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. â€˜My Rock â€˜N Rollâ€™ is an example of this trope. In the breaks where the guitars arenâ€™t threatening to punch a gaping hole in your chest, Biglandâ€™s vocals are drawling, incoherent and feel scrapped together. When it kicks into gear; heâ€™s this shrieking ball of incandescent rage of emotion as the track lurches and thuds about like a drunken dinosaur (pile up).
â€˜Traynorâ€™ 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 â€œWHAT TRAYNOR WANTS, WHAT TRAYNOR WANTS!â€ isnâ€™t going to win any prizes for itâ€™s meaningful lyrics, but is perfect to scream back at the band in a live setting. In contrast to this, â€˜Hey Youâ€™ is a melancholy, mostly acoustic ballad that builds into an aggressive salvo of slightly one-dimensional angst and bitterness. â€˜All Around The Worldâ€™ is basically the â€˜this song is about being in a bandâ€™ 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.
Thereâ€™s something remarkably infectious about this album â€“ Iâ€™ve actually been spinning it non-stop for the last two weeks; most notably â€˜Hey Man (Home You Ruin)â€™; which isnâ€™t exactly a groundbreaking piece of musicianship, but my god the chorus is so fucking good and Biglandâ€™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 â€“ you can tell Bigland threw that in for a laugh).
For the record, â€˜Growing Painsâ€™ isnâ€™t really any new ideas; BUT itâ€™s one hell of a 90â€™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-Upâ€™s debut is a recommended listen. Also, I realise itâ€™s been repeated to death, but if youâ€™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.
By Ross Macdonald