Antipodean thrash-pop outfit DZ Deathrays may only comprise of two members – Shane Parsons on guitar and vocals with Simon Ridley thumping tubs – but they make enough racket for 20. Debut album ‘Bloodstreams’ followed a trio of EPs and was met with rave reviews, if slightly indulgent ones, and two years on they’re back with sophomore release ‘Black Rat’. By all accounts they seem to have grown up, at least as much as any self-labelled thrash-pop duo called DZ Deathrays could – not all that much, then. But thankfully where before they were supping warm tinnies at the park and dodging coppers, now they’ve got their ID and can get tanked at the bar, and ‘Black Rat’ is certainly sporting a deep voice and a hairy chest…
Shane and Simon score a perfect hat-trick of thrash-pop goodness with an opening salvo which consists of the life-affirming title track, the frantic ‘Gina Works at Hearts’ and the moody ‘Less Out of Sync’. The sheer width of the musical ground occupied by the Aussie noisesmiths is breath-taking and the duo are determined to explore every corner of it. This they do while armed to the teeth with melodic pop sensibilities which ensure the choruses will stick in your head for weeks. But don’t start listening out for these tunes on daytime radio any time soon; sugarcubes and saccharin tablets are ditched in favour of oceans of Jack Daniels (or Jagermeister, as their old video for The Mess Up suggests ...)
Following on from the spiky but unmemorable ‘Reflective Skull’, Deathrays take a more melodious path with a one-two of expansive rockers which have shades of Biffy Clyro about them. ‘Keep Myself On Edge’ sounds like crashing waves and retains their awesome spectacle, before ‘Northern Lights’ builds to a rousing crescendo. Were it not for that addictive garage-punk ethos you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a different band entirely, one with less edge but packing no less of a punch.
Unfortunately, the second half of the record struggles to live up to the first, and is decidedly patchy in places. After the atmospheric ‘Night Walking’ cranks the faders if not back to 11 certainly to a solid seven, the duo drop their first stinker in the form of ‘Fixations’. Based around a clichéd drumbeat, it simply irritates where other tunes on the record drop jaws, and a passable chorus cannot turn things round. What can, at least for four minutes and three seconds, is the mighty ‘Ocean Explorer’, a whiskey-soaked contender for song of the album. Opening with enough fuzz to make your speakers sound shot, riffs cascade as the duo swagger back to the top of their game.
If the album ended here, it would go out with a bang. Even if ‘Tonight Alright’ acted as the full stop, with its reverb-drenched lead line and uplifting chorus, things would be okay. But sadly ‘Nightslave’ ensures ‘Black Rat’ goes out with a whimper, returning to the disastrous formula established on ‘Fixations’ and augmenting it with grating chord changes and insipid vocals. It’s a disappointing end to a generally exhilarating rollercoaster of a record.
Words - Joe Ponting
Black Rat is out now on I OH YOU
Buy on itunes here