Brisbane’s indie rockers The Grates deliver their most surprising and ambitious album to date with fourth LP Dream Team. Announced in late October, recorded in just six days in November, and released within a fortnight soon after – the recording and production behind The Grates’ latest was a whirlwind process but Dream Team is no rushed job; the results speak for themselves.
It’s without a doubt The Grates’ most grounded album yet, returning to their garage, grungy rock roots as heard on their early EPs and 2006 debut album Gravity Won’t Get You High. The Grates’ themselves have said that their latest is a sort throwback to that breakthrough release.
Though Dream Team is a shorter affair clocking in at around 30 minutes, with the average track only lasting around 2 and a half minutes. But what the album lacks in length, it makes up for easily in its incredibly dense and layered tracks. These are loaded songs that explore new territory for the band with a rawer, grittier sound that’s just as fun as their beloved previous album.
Right from the get go, album opener Call Me instantly sets the tone of what’s to come: short, fast, and very loud guitar jams with a fair few surprise along the ride. It Won’t Hurt Anymore offers a slower, softer moment on the album while Dirty Hands, one of the many highlights off the album, shows off lead singer Patience Hodgson’s more aggressive vocals which, as always, works incredibly well to complement the guitar and drums; this time played by new drummer Ritchie Daniell (who also drums in The Trouble with Templeton).
As the album has been produced by Straight Arrows’ Owen Penglis, who’s previously worked with Royal Headache, The Frowning Clouds, and Palms, it’s no wonder that his rich garage rock production meshes so well with The Grates’ punk/pop sound.
Dream Team stands up as a no-nonsense garage rock album, however looking beyond the surface of these fun songs there is a deeper often darker side to them. Themes of loneliness, indecision, and melancholy present themselves subtly throughout the album. Yet it’s hard to pass up on them on repeat listens. Especially on What’s Wrong With You, an emotional country ballad that sees Hodgson channelling Patsy Cline/Loretta Lynn on lines like “I see you walk away with her, one weekend I’m replaced, I’m hung up shades of blue, what am I to do”; BYO acoustic slide guitar and you’ve got yourself a country classic.
It’s this contrast between the band’s fast, fun guitar driven garage rock and Hogdson’s ranged vocals and lyrical content that gives Dream Team distinctive feel from The Grates’ previous albums yet subtle enough that it’s not too overwhelming to spoil their fun vibes.
The Grates have made a welcomed return with Dream Team. It’s an album full of fast fun guitar jams with the odd surprise here and there, reminiscent of their very first album. And while it ends too quickly it definitely leaves you wanting for more.
The Grates’ Dream Team is available now through Death Valley Records and Tapes.