Photo Credit: Dinosaur Pile-Up / YouTube
With nearly five years having passed since their last album, Dinosaur Pile-Up was probably assumed extinct by many. But fossilization clearly didn’t agree with the Leeds, England trio, as they came roaring back with their fourth album, Celebrity Mansions, on which new drummer Mike Sheils joins bassist Jim Cratchley and longtime singer/guitarist Matt Bigland.
If the track “Round the Bends” didn’t open with a brief snippet of the band members speaking in their native British accents, they might be at risk of losing their eligibility for the National Health, because Dinosaur Pile-Up is probably the most American-sounding British band since the Outfield or even Bad Company. However, reasons to celebrate Celebrity Mansions pile up with each of the album’s ten tracks.
Dinosaur Pile-Up appear musically foreign to not just their nationality but their era as well, as they draw their sound largely from ‘90s rock such as Nirvana, Blink-182, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (particularly on the first single, “Back Foot”), and Tripping Daisy. One thing Dinosaur Pile-Up is not, however, is thrash-metal, even though the opening track is entitled “Thrash Metal Cassette” (and Celebrity Mansions is not even commercially available on cassette – we checked). Add to this the title of another album cut, “Stupid Heavy Metal Broken Hearted Punk Loser” (that’s one song), and Dinosaur Pile-Up also become the biggest challenge to irony radar to come out of the U.K. since the Darkness and their “guess-if-it’s-a-wig” brand of glam metal.
As if the titles weren’t a serious enough cluster of confusion, thematically much of the album is a look at celebrity from the point of view of both the “haves”: “I gotta be somewhere // But I’m too busy being a millionaire” and the “have-nots”: “Celebrity Mansions in the Hollywood Hills // And the chicks on Instagram, they earn more than I ever will.” The former lyric is from “K West,” and while the title clearly indicates Kanye, everyone’s favorite rapper-turned-Kardashian-turned-unlikely-Trump-supporter, the song actually suggests a physical location: “You come by my place, I won’t be there // I’ll be drinking with the band down at the K West.” Celebrity in 2019 does often seem more like a place we simply arrive at than a title that we earn.
The Michael Jackson-type drumbeat that opens that song is not the only musical oddity to be found on our tour of Celebrity Mansions. “Thrash Metal Cassette,” for example, takes an odd turn around the 2:27 mark with a cheerleader chant (thirty-seven years later, and we’re all still paying the price for Toni Basil’s “Mickey”). Still, every cut on the album will make you smile, but just be careful not to get any teeth knocked out in the mosh pit.
The mid-tempo “Long Way Down” is the epic album-closer (“epic” at least by the standards of this album – it’s the only track whose length exceeds four-minutes). “I remember when you parted // We were all so broken hearted // So are you listening? // This one’s for you.” It would be easy to assume this is meant to imply Kurt Cobain (who’s even alluded to in “K West”) but the song’s surprising hook is closer to a lesser-known ‘90s power trio, Material Issue (an American band who many insisted sounded British – there’s another rock paradox for you).
Like Cobain, Material Issue’s singer/guitarist, Jim Ellison, also committed suicide. Obviously nobody wishes a similar fate on Bigland (or anyone period), but there’s little to suggest that Dinosaur Pile-Up will be consumed by the type of Gen-X pessimism which many didn’t take seriously enough until it was too late. “I should throw in the towel but I know I’ll never quit,” Bigland sings back on the title cut. Indeed, Dinosaur Pile-Up suggests that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with power chords, some pizza and a few laughs with the buds (or mates. Or maybe it is “buds?” Oh, crap, another paradox). Even if Celebrity Mansions doesn’t garner them mansions or even celebrity, Dinosaur Pile-Up should be able to secure prime real estate on any rock fan’s summer 2019 playlist.