Pent-up, larger-than-life, obsessive riffs are still the name of the game for Dinosaur Pile-Up, and with Nature Nurture, frontman and songwriter Matt Bigland has certainly demonstrated with just as much panache as ever that he can reel them off with consummate ease. Some of us were already aware of this, though; 2010 debut Growing Pains didn’t burst onto as many sonars as it should have done, but it certainly shook those that it did invade. Nature Nurture has come along 3 years later and is a steadfast follow-up from the first installment, with no huge deviations from the simple but enviable strengths of Bigland. Elements of early-noughties post-punk, nineties-style grunge and mainstream alternative rock create a conglomerate of aggressive, enslaving energy to hook you like a fish, and this time it’s arguably equipped with more potent, viral melodies, making for the most adhesive of hooks. The band’s Twitter bio even reads ‘All riffs and no play makes Matt a rad boy’, if we needed any further inclination to what this record was going to contain…
So, considering the blueprint, it goes without saying that the album wastes no time snatching at a hook that sticks. The fact that I spent the entire day that I first listened to Nature Nurture reciting “Screammmmmm/Scream at my reflection’’ in my head is a testament to the addictive powers of album opener Arizona Waiting. It’s sensationally loud, with desperate, storming vocals and a pacey conveyor belt of big guitars. A retrospective breakdown allows for a certain amount of composure to be regained, and you think you may be getting off lightly before Bigland detonates an explosive, in-your-face arrangement that gives your ears another bashing. Tone set.
Nature Nurture definitely does stick by a relatively staunch blueprint, but I reckon the notably more magnetic melodies make the record slightly more accessible than its predecessor. In addition to this,Bigland’s songwriting, although still sustained by the same nucleus, explores a little bit more in the way of angst and apprehension in certain areas. Tracks such as Derail (which incidentally has a video that features Diana Vickers… Remember her?), are definitely more dynamic in their composition, and this allows for Bigland’s vocals to appear more translucent. Combine that with the addictive nature of Dinosaur Pile-Up’s mammoth hooks as standard, and it’s safe to say that this is a record that ticks more boxes than it crosses simply by playing to its members’ strengths.
This isn’t to say that the album is entirely absent of fillers. There’s no doubting that every track has a hook – some bigger than others – but the lack of evolution and scrutiny throughout the record means that, inevitably, the punch isn’t going to maintain the same magnitude of strength from start to finish. For example, by the time Draw the Line and Start Again come along, the effect is nowhere near as infectious, and the hooks are more for hanging certificates on a wall as opposed to towing a caravan. What they do achieve, however, is an opportunity for a riff-fiend to re-work up an appetite for Lip Hook Kiss and Nature Nurture; the former a genuine highlight that is strategically placed immediately after these ‘weaker’ tracks in order to set up a finish to the album that is every bit as strong as its start. The huge bridge in Lip Hook Kiss is Bigland at his finest – ferociously loud and far from clean, with the track not too dissimilar from Derail in its dynamism. The notion is efficiently astute in revitalizing Nature Nurture for a finale.
I have tickets to see this band in a few weeks time, and it’s safe to say I can’t wait to hear these tracks performed live. Nature Nurture is a procession of quick-paced, addictive bangers, and is perfect for those who fish for hooks. Bigland even manages to wedge in an acoustic guitar in The Way We Came, whilst it is also worth noting that the savvy core riff of Summer Gurl boasts one of the stronger doses of aural narcotics that the LP has to offer.
Ultimately, Dinosaur Pile-Up have followed up a very solid debut with another commendable effort that plays to their fundamental strengths, but incorporates a newfound translucency, a barrage of infectious melodies, and more hooks than a witch’s cloakroom. Inevitably, some tracks have larger hooks than others, and there are some weaker tracks punctuating the mid-section of the record, but the track listing allows this to escape relatively unpunished. Nature Nurture doesn’t deviate from the band’s forte, and this could be construed as a lack of ambition or an inability or unwillingness to show any evolution from their debut. The recurring motif, however, is one of an addictive, in-your-face hypothesis that assures admirably. Make sure the volume is turned up! Nature Nurture weighs in with a solid 72%.
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