New Brunswick brings to mind a certain kind of sweaty, angry, punk-tinged basement experience, the kind cops can’t wait to shut down—those shows are alive and well, yeah, but apparently there’s a lot to hear in town these days. Dinosaur Eyelids are Court Tavern faves whose third album, Conflagration, is an entertaining trip back to the aesthetic environment of grunge. Donning your nostalgia-boots is recommended.
This band is at its best when it’s gunning for raw power. The persistent riff in “Valis,” as well as its chorus, nails the sort of vibe you’d get from, say, Nirvana in loud mode, but with chopsy guitar licks chuting down a wah-wah Slip ‘N Slide—there are plenty of gutsy instances like this which really demand a live setting, even if the awesome no-frills production manages to work up some girth. Anti-war title-track “Conflagration” is not exactly an eloquent call against arms, but its elephantine, Soundgarden-esque stomp sounds earnest enough. The catch-all lyrical moment probably occurs in the first 30 seconds of the whole album (“Only a fool believes that a good thing can last”), stated unsentimentally and plain, before a glorious cacophony of dirty chords and slick tapping introduces the band’s mojo. That song unexpectedly arrives at the first of a few clean-guitar passages on the record that are imaginative and quite beautiful.
More ‘90s sounds surface on tunes like “Winter Wheat,” a bleak hard-times number with careful acoustic picking, harmonica, and a power-pop vibe. “Underneath My Breath” is another Cobain-esque tune replete with self-loathing and an impossibly catchy refrain. Memorable moments thin out as the record draws to a close, or perhaps that was my own attention span collapsing—either way, it happened. It’s worth considering whether or not this is a by-product of swimming in sounds of yesteryear, which is not necessarily a bad thing… it’s just limited. Whether or not Conflagration really is top-heavy, there is much to like about Dinosaur Eyelids. Behind the stylistic choices are some good ideas and powerful songwriting—the last track, “Untitled,” is nothing but piano, rain, and passing traffic, and it aches.
In A Word: Riffs