Album review – Dinosaur Bones, My Divider
– by Cole MacKinnon
During the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, when Tokyo Police Club’s guitarist Josh Hook self-deprecatingly stated that I probably did a better job of playing the guitar line in TPC’s “In A Cave” than he did himself (my band covered the song at the time), it got me thinking: regardless of the musicians’ skill levels, what was it about their 2008 release Elephant Shell that made it an engaging listen?
Sure, they had interesting lyrics, solid guitar/synth interplay, and songs that kept themselves tidily under the three-minute mark, but the real wow factor may have been the tight-n-zippy, excitedly active feel of the record, courtesy of Toronto producer Jon Drew.
TPC’s labelmates on Dine Alone Records, Dinosaur Bones, benefit from Drew’s presence on their debut full-length, My Divider, a record that makes you work for the payoff, but is ultimately worth the effort. If Elephant Shell chanted and pumped its fists in the air, My Divider broodingly stalks the room, choosing carefully when to strike. It’s lively-sounding stuff, but the density of the material and the arrangements means multiple listens are necessary in order for these songs to really take hold.
With its angular guitars, punchy, in-charge bass, and grittily authentic tone, My Divider hearkens back to Shine A Light-era Constantines (think “Insectivora” or “Nighttime Anytime”). This is especially evident in the catchy swagger of “Royalty”, or in “Hunters”, where vocalist Ben Fox trades his usual cool and controlled delivery for some full-on shouting: “Vampires come around here” he exclaims again and again while the band crashes frantically around him.
Other standout moments include the ominous, twisting instrumental outro in “Life In Trees”, the all-together-now rush of the chorus in “Highwire Act”, and the fragile and atmospheric “Ice Hotels”. The latter is a mature offering from such a young band (and at eight songs in, a good time to turn the electrics down a notch).
Sonically-speaking, My Divider is a good time; the drums snap nicely throughout (a Jon Drew trademark) and the rest of the band sounds appropriately amped up for the duration of the 11-track album. The songs do occasionally meander and take time to explain themselves (as opposed to the more immediate hookiness of Canadian contemporaries such as TPC or The Stills), but Dinosaur Bones are aiming for something a bit left-of-pop anyway, and with only one full-length under their belts, they’re just getting warmed up.