Introducing: Dinosaur Pile-Up

"I Wouldn't Want To Be Piled Under A Diplodocus"

Hailed as the next big thing by indie darling radio station XFM, Dinosaur Pile-Up seem to be gradually spreading their name around the industry as the next big band to watch. The big question however is, are they any good?

Well, this 3 piece from Yorkshire are certainly trying hard, floating around the peripheries of hitting the big time since 2008. Although, surprisingly for a fresh, up and coming band, they seem to be  making their music difficult to get a hold of. Sure, Myspace has been superseded  by Facebook as the social media site of choice by the general populace, but it has remained at the heart of the independent music scene despite the social scene exodus. This is why it is so odd that only their new single, ‘Birds and Planes’ is readily available on their, seemingly well-updated, Myspace page. This could possibly be because they are trying to keep their debut, full-length album fresh to listeners, but once that September release rolls around, people will not have had much to form opinions on. The only other songs floating around for easy listening are ‘Opposites Attract’, found on a compilation album on Spotify, and ‘Birds and Planes’ B-side ‘Headspinner’, available as a free download on their website. Well, here goes nothing, how can I sum up Dinosaur Pile-Up off the back of three tracks?

If I were just giving an opinion from ‘Birds and Planes’, then I could happily call Dinosaur Pile-Up “Foo Fighters Lite” and leave it at that. Seriously, get Dave Grohl on vocals and this song would fit in without a problem on ‘One By One’ or ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’. The riffing is there, the screaming is there, even the harmonies sound like they could have been lifted straight from something by the Foos. While the overdriven bass sounds really sweet, it doesn’t do much to separate Dinosaur Pile-Up’s sound from that of the Foo Fighters. Like the difference between many bands, a lot of it comes down to the vocalist. Though possibly damning with faint praise, Dinosaur Pile-Up’s vocalist Matt Bigland sounds pop-punk-tastic. When everything else sounds so Foo Fighters, it’s a little odd for the vocals to sound so much like they would fit in on a Blink 182 tribute act.

Happily he, and the rest of the band, show a lot more depth and variety on ‘Opposites Attract’. While the Foo Fighters similarities aren’t completely gone, this track shows them a lot more as carrying the torch of grunge as a whole. Soft verse, loud chorus songwriting is in full effect here, backed-up by a filthy tone and threats of discord which happily stay on the right side of the split between moody and just plain bad. The pop-punk is one of the first influences that has obviously been thrown right out of the window, Bigland’s voice barely rising above a whisper for the majority of the track, and possessing a much welcome moan when the track escalates. The harmonies are still there, but subdued to a level where they become a disenchanted chorus rather than a jolly focal point of the song. Also, I have to commend these guys on their use of feedback, it sounds pretty damn kickass and the song would be left lacking without it. This is grunge at it’s grimiest, and they pull it off in a way that Nirvana would be proud of.

B-side ‘Headspinner’ is a track that bridges the gap between the lightness of ‘Birds and Planes’ and the thick grime of ‘Opposites Attract’, and pulls off being a better song than it’s own A-side. What starts as the epitome of simple grunge grows and grows layer upon layer of instruments and vocals until it becomes something that you wouldn’t really expect at first listen. The bittersweet chorus is a particular highlight, sounding almost like Dookie era Green Day, until the chord sequence takes ones of the grungiest chord shifts you will hear in modern music. The Foo Fighters comparisons remain in the song’s bridge, which takes its cues from songs like ‘Pretender’, but luckily, not in the obnoxious way that the band’s lead single does.

It is a real pity that Dinosaur Pile-Up chose ‘Birds and Planes’ as their lead single. From what I heard, it is definitely their weakest work, going far too far into Foo Fighters territory. You don’t mess with a band as consistent as the Foos. Where Dinosaur Pile-Up shine is where they are reopening the doors to grunge. Grunge is a genre that died a sad, slow death in the 90s and maybe, just maybe, Dinosaur Pile-Up could help it live again. They aren’t the new messiah, but they are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Foo Fighters- Wheels and Word Forward (Singles)

"You can't really imagine Dave would ever drop an F-bomb from this photo"

So, what’s a good way to get people to buy your greatest hits collection? Sure, it’s a good place for new fans to start, but how do you get people who already own all the music your band has put out to rebuy songs they already own? The answer recently has been to put a few new singles on a ‘greatest hits’ CD, more as an attempt to get more buyers than pre-emptive wishful thinking (though they do often end up being hits in their own right in the marketing push of the greatest hits collection). Now, Foo Fighters have done the same, writing 2 brand new songs, Wheels and Word Forward, for their 2009 Greatest Hits collection.

‘Wheels’ was the first new single to see the light of day, and is actually has a slightly different feel than you would normally get from an electric Foo Fighters track. It has a little bit of a southern rock swagger to it, and it dominated by a jangly lead guitar, rather than the distorted rhythm you would usually expect. While it is a little reminiscent of the work of Tom Petty, to reduce it to that wouldn’t do ‘Wheels’ justice. It’s Foo Fighters putting something a little bit new in with all their hits, and it’s a welcome addition to their catalogue. Lyrically, it feels like a bit of a homecoming for Foo Fighters, which suits the greatest hits idea well. It’s almost saying, “Ok, here’s our greatest hits, we know it’s not a new album, but we’ll be getting on to new stuff soon. For now, lets just chill out and look back on everything that’s gone well so far.”

Both these songs seem to hark back to the work of earlier artists, but not in a lazy way. They almost seem like a tribute, be it intentional, or just a coincidental sign of those bands influences. What I mean by this is, if ‘Wheels’ takes cues from Tom Petty, then ‘Word Forward’ is a love letter to The Beatles and their song A Day In The Life, at least in the opening verse. This song feels much more like you would expect from Foo Fighters. The soft verse, loud chorus format, the build to an ecstatic climax, the song along chorus, it’s all here. Again, this seems to scream, “we’re not done yet” and rightly so. If this is an indication of what’s to come, then Dave and the boys can’t stop now.

Wheels: 7.5/10

Word Forward: 8/10

Them Crooked Vultures- [Self Titled]

"Them Sweaty Vultures"

Superbands are an interesting concept. Members from successful bands getting together and writing new songs, which would in theory sound like a mix of the styles of the bands involved. From a marketing standpoint, it’s great. Bringing the fans of the component members together, all buying one album. It’s probably a load of fun for the band members too, as they get to step out of the shadow of fan expectations and have a glorified jam with other great musicians doing the same.

When it comes to ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ and their self -titled debut, they do sound like they are having a hell of a lot of fun, and you can definitely hear each member’s influence. ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ comes out of the confluence of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. The root of the band’s sound comes from Homme’s gritty lead vocals and distorted guitar work, Grohl’s tight drumming and John Paul Jones’s melodic basslines. However, because of Josh Homme taking lead vocal duties, and the fact that both Grohl and himself have played on Queens of the Stone Age albums, “Them Crooked Vultures’ do have more than a hint of Homme’s influence in their sound. If you can imagine Queens of the Stone Age, filtered through bluesy classic rock and with a little sprinkle of playful avant-garde, then you’d be somewhere close to imagining the sound of ‘Them Crooked Vultures’

At first, I felt sorry for John Paul Jones, being the old classic rocker in with these 2 younger kings of alternative rock. Even more when I heard his bass being put through distortion effects on a few of the tracks. Then I realised that he probably had much more influence on the sound of the band that I had originally given him credit. After all, he’s the one in this group with nothing to lose. He was a part of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time! He wouldn’t have agreed to join if he didn’t like Homme’s dissonant leaning sound, and to add in those basslines underneath just give the songs an extra sparkle of classic rock energy.

For the Foo Fighters fans out there, don’t worry, you can hear Dave’s voice in there in places, harmonising with Homme and occasionally getting little moments to sing on his own. It’s incredibly likely that many of the guitars were recorded by him too, the multi-instrumentalist that he is. It does make me wonder though, what my impression of this album would be if it was Grohl taking lead vocal duties rather than Homme. On first listens, my dominant thought was “This is very QotSA”, but while the overall sound of the band is reminiscent of Josh Homme’s band, the fact that he is also the singer plays a big part in this impression. This said, the influence the other band members have on the sound make me prefer this album to Queens of the Stone Age’s last effort, ‘Era Vulgaris’.

This is quite a strange album, but a very good one. Sweeping pianos mix with out of time guitar distortion, some songs end with sound-a-likes of old movie soundtracks, and bluesy guitar riffs trade off with ones that border on the dissonant. What’s amazing is that it all works, and is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. For Queens of the Stone Age fans, this album should be an instant purchase, and Foo Fighters fans won’t have much to complain about either. If any Zeppelin fans are on the fence about it, by the time you hear the bass in Scumbag Blues, you won’t be, I promise.

8.5/10

Standout Tracks:

Scumbag Blues

Reptiles

Gunman

Archive Review: Foo Fighters- Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace

"I appreciate the warning guys, but did you have to ruin a wall?"

(This was originally written in September 2007)

First things first, I’ll answer the questions all Foo Fighters fan will automatically ask about this album. Is it better than “The Colour And The Shape”? Is it as good as “The Colour And The Shape”?

For those who don’t know, “The Colour And The Shape” is widely regarded as the best Foo Fighters album and, unfortunately, the answer to both of these questions is no. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good album. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace builds on what was started in the Foo Fighters’ double disc album “In Your Honour”, condenses it, and in some ways improves it. That album had one disc of full on Rock power, contrasting completely with another of Acoustic contemplation.

“Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” takes that formula and squeezes it down onto one disk. What this doesn’t mean is that you get mismatch of the two styles, in fact, in some ways it’s pleasing to hear songs go back to the classic Foo Fighters formula of “Soft Verse, Loud Chorus”, but with a new folksy, acoustic twist on the soft verses. Let me explain by going through the songs individually:

The album opens with the first single of the album, The Pretender. This is pure Foo Fighters. A soft guitar riff plays under Dave Grohl’s hypnotising vocals, before building to a stomp along intro to the rest of the song. The chords drive through like a sledgehammer, and then they dive into a stadium rock chorus that deserves a screaming crowd singing along. This is the Foo Fighters doing what they do best, and is a perfect opening to suck you into “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”.

Following this is Let It Die. This starts of like something from the acoustic disk of “In You Honour”. It starts with just an acoustic guitar and Dave’s vocals, but it slowly builds towards something greater. Half way through the song, everything changes. An electric Guitar stomps through, changing the mood of the song completely. After the powerful bridge, the song starts to flipflop between it’s acoustic opening and it’s pounding middle, then the two styles merge into a powerful, melodic ending. This is one of the best songs on the album.

Next comes Erase/Replace. This is a full on, driving, scream your lungs out Foo Fighters song. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a singalong. It’s powerful and energetic, but it’s not very memorable.The main part of the chorus is the repetition of the title, and I can’t imagine myself singing Erase/Replace along with the band.

The song most likely to be the second single from the album is Long Road To Ruin, if only because it’s mentioned with The Pretender on the sticker on the album’s box. In complete contrast with the previous song, even the verses of this song are really singable. It also carries the first guitar solo of the album, and like many other songs, this deserves to be played live.

Come Alive is a song that wouldn’t seem out of place at all on the second disc “In Your Honour”. This is one of the pure acoustic songs of the album, well half of it anyway. Like all good Foo Fighters songs it builds to a powerful climax, and the second half uses electric guitar to make this build all the more powerful. By the end, the song blows the listener away like a freight train.

Stranger Things Have Happened starts with the sound of a Metronome being wound, and then it ticks away throughout the song. The song seems to have been recorded recorded live with just Dave Grohl, an acoustic guitar, and the ticking metronome. It’s a simple song, but this simplicity is its biggest asset. It has that raw, live energy that can only come from, well, a live recording. The odd thing is, it isn’t hard to imagine this being transposed over to a storming stadium rock song, and belted out to a screaming audience.

The next song, Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running), is a formulaic Foo Fighters song. What I mean is this song is probably the closest to the “Soft Verse, Loud Chorus” idea that Dave Grohl has known since his days in Nirvana. It’s nothing special, but it does what it sets out to do well.

A bluesy riff kicks off Summer’s End, which then goes onto a very melodic verse and chorus. I could imagine this as another single, but it is nowhere near as likely as Long Road to ruin. This song also has the second guitar solo of the album, and a singable chorus. It’s a great example of the style of “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” as a whole.

A muffled count in opens Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners, an folsky instrumental piece. It’s a fun song, and it’s great to hear the Foo Fighters doing something different. It has echoes of the famous “Dueling Banjos”, and the squeak of the guitars lets you know this is another song that was recorded as a whole, live in the studio.

Statues is a beautiful song. It’s simple, but features a wide range of instruments from a squealing electric guitar to an accordion. The lyrics are also rather simple, and this seems like a “lighters in the air” sort of song to sway to and sing along with.

But, Honestly is a lot like Come Alive and Let It Die, in the the way that it starts of mainly with acoustic guitar, and then builds to a driving electric climax. The first half of the song isn’t actually that interesting, but when it gets to the middle, and begins to build, it improves very quickly. It starts to sound epic, and you get that “hell yeah, this is gonna be good” feeling as it builds. Yet another song that need to be played live to be at its best.

The final song of “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”, Home, bothers me a little, but I’ll get to that later. It’s a soft, emotional song that features Piano heavily. The thing that bothers me is the chorus. When it starts, I can’t help but have the feeling that I’ve heard it before. Not that they’ve ripped off another band, I jut feel that they’ve ripped off themselves. I still can’t work out what song it reminds me of, but there’s a definite link to a previous Foo Fighters album in the chorus. Other than that, the song is a good, chilled ending to the album.

There is also a bonus track called Once & For All [Demo]. This sounds like a classic Foo Fighters song, like something off, yes, “The Colour And The Shape”. I’d like to hear more of this, maybe it will end up as a B-side to one of the singles.

In conclusion, this album needs to be played to a stadium full of screaming fans in order for it to be at it’s best. A few songs wouldn’t fit in to that format, but I’d love to see them try.

Post Script:

This is a very old review, I’m not overly fond of the style, but I thought I would repost it here, for the sake of completeness. Over time, my opinions of this album have shifted slightly, so let me give you a quick gist of where I stand on it now:

This is Foo Fighters playing it safe and padding out their catalogue. There isn’t a bad song on this album, but that doesn’t mean any are particularly amazing either. This is a worthy addition to the Foo Fighters repetoir, but that’s all it it is, an addition. It won’t change your opinions of the band, for better or for worse. If you like the Foo Fighters, it’s worth getting. If you are just getting into them now, I’d recommend buying “The Colour and The Shape”, “In Your Honor” or now you would most probably want to look at their new greatest hits collection. I won’t be reviewing it as a whole, but I may give a quick once over to the new tracks “Wheels” and “Word Forward” once my current batch of reviews are out of the way.