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Album Review: Dune Rats ‘Dune Rats’

Words by Scenewave Australia - Published on June 29, 2014

Brisbane’s Dune Rats make the frustrations of living in a city that has no beach, not only relatable, but a little more bearable. Built on a foundation of sound moulded by both international and local alt-rock constituents, Dune Rats’ bare similarities to the likes of Best Coast and Gold Coast’s Bleeding Knees Club but with the surf vibes taking a back seat to the tones of suburbia-ridden stoners, resulting¬† in lo-fi, dulcet, stoner pop that is coated in a veneer of watered down Wavves-esque punk. It is equal parts derivative as it is unique, and where Dune Rats set themselves apart, and what makes them so much fun, is that their music isn’t a lamentation or a reflection on stoner culture, but a celebration of it.

If you hadn’t figured it out when you saw core Dunies, BC Michaels and Danny Beus (who have since been joined by Brett Jansch), rip a collective total of 30 cones in their “Red Light Green Light” video, the boys smoke a lot of dank. A fact which seems to have been fairly pivotal in the creation of their self-titled, debut album, which dropped earlier this month.

It’s a 35 minute ode to weed and stoners, filled primarily with short two to three minute songs that are thematically strong and at times, lyrically scarce. Opening track, “Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana” features the chanting of “marijuana” over power chords for a good chunk of its run time. While it’s good that Dune Rats ¬†are staying true to their origins and fans, songs like the above and “DR DR” which boasts the line “Get high, get drunk, it’s fun to be a punk” make it a little too apparent that Dune Rats are still very much pandering to a specific audience. Disappointingly though, these tracks lack the frivolity and erratic nature of their early work and in an album that is far more focussed and polished than their previous efforts, they feel out of place. “Funny Guy” the lead single from the album, and consequently what was listeners’ first taste of the LP, sounds like it belongs more on either of the band’s 2011 EPs. At best, they’re nice throwbacks to Dune Rats’ past stoner anthems, even if they do fall slightly short. At worst, it’s a sign that the band is hesitant to make their more noise pop and slacker rock influenced songs a prominent part of the Dune Rats sound.

These elements have always been present in the band’s work, despite songs like “Woo!” being slightly overshadowed by the band’s more punkier tracks. But with Dune Rats, the band plays with these varying, often contrasting, styles a lot more. Where “Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana”, “Superman” and “Funny Guy” are fun yet lacking in any real substance, “Good Seeds” and “Lola” offer more range and depth, fusing a mish mash of alt rock, from Pavement to the second half of a Wavves’ album, in an oddly tight and well polished package. A fair chunk of the album however, meets a compromise between the two. “ET” and “Drugs” can be taken as preferred, either reclined on the couch after a cone, or head banging in the front row.

Dune Rats lends itself to being viewed from multiple perspectives, and it is this holographic-NRL-card-you-got-out-of-a-packet-of-Smiths-like quality that makes it such an enjoyable album. While you might not necessarily like the entire LP, Dune Rats’ stoner-pop branches out and flirts with so many other alt-rock genres, that you’ll be flat out not to have at least some tracks hit a sweet spot with you.

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