If history is any indication, “Dinosaur” bands (and I don’t mean those whose members are prehistoric) are meant to be loud and powerful. One doesn’t invoke the ferocity of the “terrible lizards” without having the muscle to back it up, and only a truly monolithic kind of rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse is deserving of a name like T. Rex. The same goes for Dinosaur Jr., and, at least in terms of era and size, Mastodon. Toronto’s Dinosaur Bones don’t quite follow the same pattern, however, their name instead referencing buried relics rather than a walking, stomping, predatory reptile. And as such, their music isn’t as reliant on volume or sheer hugeness as their Dinosaur predecessors.
In their own quiet way, though, Dinosaur Bones rock. They rock hard, even, but with a great deal of restraint and focus. The group, formed by songwriter Ben Fox in 2008, has often been compared to The Walkmen, with whom Dinosaur Bones share quite a bit in common. Much like those New York City indie rock heroes, Dino Bones reserve their bursts of explosive rock ‘n’ roll for just the right moments, with songs like “Hunters” and “Royalty” revealing the rare moments in which the band lets loose and allow their fiery guitar riffs do most of the talking. Though they don’t have anything quite as maliciously intense as “The Rat,” they no doubt craft a sound that allows a natural flow from their subtler moments to their most energetic peaks, and vice versa.
Much of My Divider, Dinosaur Bones’ debut album, is, in fact, a measured and mannered indie rock album, elegant in composition but no doubt pulsing with a meaty rhythmic core. The throbbing bass and muscular drum beats of “Sharks In the Sand” suggest a band that can wreck a stage should they so choose, but displaying the grace and maturity not to. Much of that grace comes from Fox, whose vocals are far more croon than shriek or bellow, sounding absolutely charming as he sings lines such as, “Cell phones keep blowing up like bombs in the night.” Lucas Fredette’s ferocious thwack on “NYE” is a curious fake-out, with the song soon easing into a melancholy, mid-tempo indie pop tune rather than full-on rocker, but one with a soaring chorus all the same. With “Hunters,” however, arrives that promise of ass-kicking rock as suggested all along, albeit with an abrasive post-hardcore edge, which isn’t totally surprising when you factor in that the band is signed to a label named for a Quicksand song. Similarly, “Point of Pride” juxtaposes a stunning array of arpeggiated riffs with spacious, yet intensely pounding drums.
Though Dinosaur Bones choose to parse out their moments of intensity and ferocity between those of elegance and restraint, their power is nonetheless tangible and, for that matter, quite impressive. That they don’t bludgeon the listener immediately only serves to enhance the impact when those moments do arrive. And in the process, they serve up a uniquely melodic and kitsch-free form of indie rock that hits the listener right in the gut.
Superchunk – Indoor Living
The Walkmen – Lisbon
No Knife – Riot for Romance
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.