Music Reviews
Best Behavior

DINOWALRUS Best Behavior

(Old Flame Records) Rating - 8/10

In 2010, Brooklyn Naught Wave trio DINOWALRUS released %, which was a rather ambitious mash up of the last thirty+ years’ worth of NYC fringe.  Bred obviously from the same streets, or at least exposed to the same neighborhoods that brought about the genesis of bands like Suicide, The Ramones, Sonic Youth and Brian Eno era Talking Heads, DINOWALRUS’ well of inspiration was full to bursting and, consequently, so was their album.  Following up, their new album Best Behavior, finds the band in a focused state of creative growth, the more synthesizer-oriented portions of % playing a prominent role in the band’s songwriting.

The Gift Shop opens the album with wafting organ notes, a rather pleasant disposition and guitar licks that sink into the fabric of the song.  It would be muddy if there weren’t so much of a gleam to it, which is carried onto the following track, Phone Home from the Edge.  Pop-informed accessibility rules, but there is also an almost psychedelic trance like quality to the song that allows the more esoteric aspects of the band’s aesthetic to shine.  Thick with layers, too refined to qualify as lo-fi or disingenuously vintage, Beth Steel is straight nostalgia, an engaging 80s pop persona that manages to revive without recycling.  The same could be said of Radical Man, its synthesized pulsations and dissonant guitar work evoking 80s college radio. 

Standout is RICO, recalling the dance wave of Factory bands like A Certain Ratio or Quando Quango.  Thick on groove, heavy on synthesized flourish and even flirtatious with Pop Group embellishments (tenor sax?), DINOWALRUS fuse together a perfect blend of dance punk and art funk.  (Coincidentally, A Certain Ratio’s Jez Kerr was involved with remixes.)  Another standout is the following What Now, which is aided vocally by Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus.  Recalling the likes of The Psychedelic Furs or The Sound, DINOWALRUS rely heavily on their guitar sounds and dispense with the synthesizer for the time being.  In this way it’s unique among most of the music herein, but the thickness of sound allows cohesion.  Burners and Riding Eazy also provide the album some opportunities for guitar dominance, the former song a distorted mix of heavy disco punk accents, rock breakdowns and swirling synth.

Though it could be said that DINOWALRUS remain elbow deep in nostalgia, tireless in their attempts at contemporizing a very prosperous period in NYC’s art/music scene, (and even Manchester or Bristol with this release), the band has found its footing and figured out how they could fit into the city’s musical tradition.  Though too young and new to have really made any strides commercially, DINOWALRUS seems primed to be significant, their blend of dance music and indie rock a diversion from how stagnant both genres have become on their own.