REVIEW: Dinowalrus – Best Behavior

Dinowalrus are an ambitious little band. The Brooklyn trio was formed in 2008 by frontman Pete Feigenbaum, a touring guitarist for New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus. With this new project, he traded in guitar-focused punk music for psychedelic synth-punk which melded together elements of dance-punk, shoegaze and experimental rock. The band gained underground recognition around the release of their debut ‘%’, in 2010, scoring shows alongside the likes of Surfer Blood, Real Estate and Crystal Stilts. Two years later, Dinowalrus have released Best Behavior – a bolder and more positive album.

With their sophomore release, Dinowalrus have changed as a band significantly; Feigenbaum is the sole remaining member of the original line-up, but that has not necessarily affected their sound too drastically. There’s hints of chillwave, with the feel-good vibes spilling all over the album, British Sea Power-esque vocals from Feigenbaum, and even a sax towards the end of ‘Rico’. Best Behavior covers a lot of ground, musically, in the nine tracks it sticks around for.

Though Feigenbaum’s voice may be reminiscent of British Sea Power’s whispery-yet-deep vocals, the music and lyrics are entirely different. There’s a much more immediacy and pace to the tracks and lyrically, the two bands are worlds apart. Best Behavior doesn’t delve too deep with its themes and messages, instead it uses the music to hold the listener’s attention. Feigenbaum’s voice often times gets lost in the swirling textures and jutting guitars, but it has a higher fidelity to it than on ‘%’.

The album explores math-inspired rhythms like they’re an uncharted territory, in that while there are some complex time-signatures on display on the album, they never really develop into anything truly interesting or innovative. The percussion throughout is precise and adds to the dynamics proficiently.

Album opener ‘The Gift Shop’ is about as feel-good as modern day alternative music can get. Its warm, inviting tones greet the listener like a host welcoming a long-lost friend into their home after too long out in the cold. It lets the pulsing, sun-drenched synths and lazy guitar lines invade your senses. Once you’re settled in, the album unravels itself, opting for more experimental, multi-layered delights. ‘What Now’ is the album’s best example of a straight-up rock song, before ‘Radical Man’s bouncy synths teleport you back. ‘Twenty-Seven Club’ provides a minute-long interlude at the midpoint of the album, but it all seems a little inconsequential; it isn’t a particularly interesting minute of music, and could easily have been left out of the final track listing.

Overall, the music that Dinowalrus have created on Best Behaviour feels like a hybrid of sorts. While the resulting album is certainly interesting and exciting to listen to, the myriad of influences don’t always go together as well as one might hope. It feels like an album that has been sewn together in parts; it doesn’t come together to form a fully cohesive album. If you take it for what it is, there’s a lot to enjoy here and a load of potential. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t cash in on that potential whole-heartedly.

7/10

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