Review: Darwin & The Dinosaur – A Thousand Ships

You know how all of the good rock bands say that they’re fuelled by a near-lethal concoction of sex, drugs, and booze, yeah? Well, no, actually, because today we’ve got a ‘delightfully British’ helping for you all in the form of Darwin and the Dinosaur (D&tD), a band who keep their energy levels topped up with a not-so-dangerous mix of pot noodles, tea, and biscuits. What could be more British than tea, biscuits, and rock’n’roll eh? I like them already.

These guys sound like some sort of nerdy dream, you say? Well you haven’t heard anything yet. Calling Norwich home (a city with a castle and two cathedrals … they seem pretty proud about that), the band promises energetic shows filled to the brim with ‘dad-jokes’. D&tD’s drummer, Joe, runs the N.L.A – Norfolk L.A.R.P (Live Action Role Playing) Association, while the guitarist and backing vocalist, Steve, has apparently appeared as a supporting actor in every single Harry Potter film.

Nerd heaven.

Oh, that isn’t enough for you? Well I should probably let you know about their debut album A Thousand Ships which is being released in March (and in case you’re not excited yet, they have a freakin’ narwhal on the album sleeve! You know the one, the unicorns of the sea, with the most impressive but pointless horns in the animal kingdom). With a range of influences from Thrice to Fleetwood Mac, the four-piece Norwich outfit give a stellar account of themselves in this full-length debut (but we always knew they would – take a look at when we checked out their 2012 EP here).

Vocalist, Alan Hiom, provides far softer vocals than you usually get from similar bands. He also manages to keep a hold of some British pronunciation, showing you don’t have to bow to every Americanism in order to get a kick-ass sound. This blend of vocals is actually a pretty good metaphor for the entire album, which manages to capture a diverse range of styles and genres without ever sounding over-ambitious or confused. In fact the production is completely squeaky clean (without being over-edited).

One track which captures this variety of styles is ‘Hand in Hand’, with infectious verses, which are still stuck in my head, and a bouncing, ‘popping and punking’ chorus. The ability to seamlessly switch between the heavier metal-inspired instrumentals to a more pop-punk sound (as well as plenty in between) is a real highlight of the LP. The whole album conveys great technical skill, well crafted melodies, and a whole load of emotion.

A special mention has to go to ‘Riff Town Population – You’, which is quite simply a fantastic track. There is wonderful grit about it, sounding like a shout-out to great British rock acts of the past, and it sounds like a song pulled straight from the live scene. As one of the heavier songs to feature on the album, it also keeps a great melodic core, boasting D&tD’s dynamic range of talents and influences. I can certainly hear elements of Hundred Reasons and Reuben in there, while they create a sound of their own as well. Serious kudos for these guys.

A Thousand Ships has a great feel to it as an album. Some bands’ debut releases can smash into a cliff-face when they sacrifice the feel of a a whole album by just throwing together the best tracks they can record without a thought for how they go together; others get sucked into a vapid maelstrom when they spend too much time concentrating on the ‘overall sound’ and fail to deliver any stand out songs. D&tD manage to sail A Thousand Ships between these threats. It’s heavy, loud, and fast, but it also has a melodic chilled-out element in the middle.

What more can we say? You need to check these chaps out.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Darwin and the Dinosaur – Romulus [EP]

Romulus, the latest offering from Norwich-based Darwin and the Dinosaur opens with all the majesty of its legendary namesake. ‘Mow Mow’ is a charming, enrapturing kind of track. Right from the off, you’re faced with beautiful guitars and an impeccable sense of melody. And it’s the perfect track to showcase what’s still to come. There’s intensity, technical skill, emotion and a certain cheekiness. It’s Minus The Bear meets Taking Back Sunday but with an unmistakeable Britishness. That’s the whole EP in a nutshell, but Romulus does have a lot more to offer as well.

Liebe is catchy, dancey, and would fit perfectly on Kerrang! TV’s current rotation. It’s bundles of fun, but not a carbon copy of current British alt-rock. Lyrically, the EP is a cracker – extremely self aware, a little bit self deprecating and above all, intelligent without being too pretentious. This is best showcased in ‘Lady Die’, a 30-second “fuck you” wrapped in gorgeous melodies and following track ‘Fuck You And The Horse You Road In On’, an amusing insight into the lives of underground music acts. DatD is packed to the brim with excellent musicians, and there are inspiring instrumental sections on every song, but ‘October’ really takes the cake, giving each member a place in the spotlight. The EP has a great pace to it – there’s radio friendly slow burners, like ‘Stupid Is As Stupid Does’, an Armor For Sleep esque ballad with some killer backing vocals, as well as upbeat made-for-a-live-audience anthems.

The production values are also incredible. Everything is clean, crisp and clear. No instrument battles it out with another, there’s no tinny cymbals, it just sounds great. If there’s one criticism of this EP, it’s that occasionally the main vocals slip into a slightly American based whine, and as this seems to be consciously combatted at times with a more British pronunciation, it sometimes pushes them out of tune. But otherwise, Romulus is an absolute joy to listen to, and Darwin and the Dinosaur are set to conquer.

4 out of 5 high fives!