2011, Dine Alone Records
Dinosaur Bones hails from Toronto, Canada where they quickly paid their dues for two years before being snapped up by indie label Dine Alone Records (home of Hot Hot Heat and Tokyo Police Club). The five piece’s ambitious full-length debut MY DIVIDER immediately invokes comparisons to Interpol and, to a lesser degree, British band The Editors. Given the obvious talent of front man Ben Fox and his supporting cast of very strong musicians, Dinosaur Bones has great potential. However, plenty of bands start out by being ruthlessly compared to others (Interpol to Joy Division, Muse to Radiohead) before carving out their unique sonic niche.
Things unfortunately begin shakily with ‘Making Light’. The band’s attempt to ease us into the 11-song journey misfires quickly with demo-quality sound and poor time-signature changes. Redemption comes soon enough on ‘Bombs In The Night’, which channels early They Might Be Giants – back when they were an alternative band rather than being too cute for their own good. Featuring a good beat, solid vocals, decent lyrics, and great guitar, this is a standout track – and at just over 2 minutes, is a rare instance of Dinosaur Bones showing any understanding that less can be so much more.
The middle of the record bogs down a bit with songs that threaten to blend into one another with similar tones and lengths. Dinosaur Bones’ affinity for prog-rock shows through on ‘Hunters’. Menacing bass and production flourishes on Fox’s vocals during ‘NYE’ help to alleviate some of the monotony, but the frenetic hi-hat of drummer Lucas Fredette threatens to take one right out of an otherwise strong tune.
‘Ice Hotels’ is a remarkable song, and by far the best on the album. A thoughtful – even dreamy – intro, great vocals, and great lyrics help to distinguish Dinosaur Bones from their shoe-gazing brethren. Bands can go years without doing something as good as this song.
Dinosaur Bones is a clearly a band capable of writing strong lyrics. They are currently forming music that can range from serviceable to sublime. Ben Fox’s vocals soar with additional flourishes of production and with time his confidence should transcend the necessity of any crutches. As it stands, singers from many indie bands should have as much talent. The musicianship is sound throughout, with a strong nod to the bass playing of Branko Scekic. Fredette’s drumming, while excessive and distracting in some of the songs, does not lack superior talent, simply restraint. Better production values would whip a lot of these songs from rough ditties into solid tracks. Too often, jangling guitars overpower Fox’s brave vocal work.
The subtraction of a few tracks (‘Hunters’, ‘Life In Trees’, ‘Point of Pride’, ‘Highwire Act’) and the re-recording/re-production of some tracks (album opener ‘Making Light’, album closer ‘My Divider’) would make this so much more powerful a debut. Getting new listeners to stick around through a new band’s 11 tracks is asking a lot, especially when a majority of the weakest songs are clumped all together, right in the middle of the album. A demo is to show potential and a debut is to show the promise of a bright future. MY DIVIDER accomplishes the latter – but just barely – as it’s nearly dragged down by filler. Dinosaur Bones is definitely a band worth watching as they take their next steps – either into a much larger world, or into an almost certainly fatal sophomore slump.