Review Summary: A debut with more fizzle than bang.
Instead of diving head-first into the realm of Australian indie-rock, Brisbane's Last Dinosaurs instead decided to take the steps, going for a slow-and-steady approach in their career. Rather than go for something big straight away (and then more likely than not burn out not long afterwards), the band have spent the past two years working towards the all-important debut album, bypassing their hype train and developing their sound on their own terms. For this, they certainly deserve to be commended – it's rare to see a band in their position take the road less travelled and look before they proverbially leap. Here's the thing, though: upon listening to their hotly-anticipated debut In a Million Years
, it becomes quickly apparent that this isn't the great white hope at the end of the tunnel. Despite some outstanding moments of guitar pop, the album ends up as an over-produced, over-laboured and over-thought album; a victim of its context and circumstance rather than a beneficiary.
The album begins promisingly with “Zoom,” a bright and bubbly slice of pop euphoria. With its jagged lead guitar and upbeat groove, the song seems to fit everything from summer iTunes playlists to footy commercials. It's a song with broad appeal and lasting flavour. Unfortunately, things are quick to go downhill as In a Million Years
progresses. The band have developed a sound that is so note-perfect and cohesive that it grows tiresome and predictable quite quickly. Sure, the production values are slick and tidy, and it allows some of the talents within the band to shine through – particularly guitarist Lachlan Caskey, whose dynamic and diverse array of tones range from steel drum mimicry (“Weekend”) to reverb-laden high-end noodling (“Used to Be Mine”). Take away the big production values, however, and you're left with a series of mostly hollow songs that blend into one another, rather than stand out individually. Anything more than a passing listen will result in noting the flaws that the album presents, from the dull familiarity that greets each shuffled-rhythm drum pattern and Nick Valensi-esque guitar chirrup to the stereotypical young-and-dumb vagueness that comes with the lyrics (“Nicola, we've gotta make a difference,” or “Let's go to the empty park/And talk 'til it's really dark”).
Similar flaws were certainly shown in Back from the Dead
, the band's 2010 EP – and yet, they were never quite as apparent as they are here. At the very least, Back from the Dead
had a spark, an energy, a sense of youthful exuberance and reckless abandon. Maybe it was because it came at a time where the sound they were aiming for wasn't quite the commodity that it is now. Whatever the case, that EP managed to pack in more into its twentysomething-minute length than In a Million Years
manages to do in its 43-minute runtime. Not even the inclusion of “Honolulu” - the opening number of the EP, here serving as the album's penultimate track – can raise the album out of the doldrums. In fact, its inclusion does more harm than good: the proximity between it and “Time and Place” present similarities between the two that the band may have been wise to hide.
Last Dinosaurs are still incredibly young, with the potential for a long and illustrious career. There are glimmers of hope here that indicate something good – and maybe even great – is just around the corner. It's just disheartening that In a Million Years
isn't it, especially after all the time and effort that has clearly gone into its creation. Perhaps a greater sense of impulse was needed, or simply a deviation from their carefully plotted-out sound. At this point, however, the band have stumbled at the hurdle when they had the tools and the know-how to clear it with leaps and bounds. A shame.