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Album Review: Dinosaur Pile-Up - Celebrity Mansions


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The fourth album from Leeds alt-rockers Dinosaur Pile-Up sees the band return with a noticeably beefed-up sound. On Celebrity Mansions they ditch introspection to take a look at celebrity culture and society at large, but sonically remain true to their roots.

Album Art 'Celebrity Mansions' (2019)

Everything is tightened up and each aspect of the band packs more punch. We begin with two promising tracks showcasing the new turbo-charged sound in the form of ‘Thrash Metal Cassette’ and ‘Back Foot’, both of which were released as singles prior to Celebrity Mansions.

The former encapsulates this album’s strengths as well as weaknesses. Frontman’s Matthew Bigland’s debt to Dave Grohl is obvious; the main riff in ‘Thrash Metal Cassette’ is borrowed from Foo Fighters’ ‘White Limo’ (perhaps hinted at by a song further down the tracklisting entitled ‘Black Limousine’). It’s not that that’s not enjoyable – just try not to think too hard about why the tune seems so instantly familiar.

This is followed by ‘Back Foot’, which is a real album highlight. Here is a true slacker anthem about dreams of success never quite fully materialising, and defiant optimism in the face of less-than-optimal circumstances. Lyrically there are several Americanisms that crop up such as, ‘waiting tables, yeah, I’m working for the man’. These can be forgiven though, in the presence of such a mighty riff.

If geographical defamiliarisation is brought about by Americanisms, then a similar attempt is made on the third track to destabilise Dinosaur Pile-Up’s musical niche by owning the oddly specific genre epithet of ‘Stupid Heavy Metal Broken Hearted Loser Punk’. The title track, ‘Celebrity Mansions’, sounds like a mash-up of Smashing Pumpkins and Smashmouth, and the obstinate refusal to be realistic that first appears on ‘Back Foot’ recurs as Bigland sings, “My time is coming around/ don’t know when and I don’t know how […] don’t quit on me now”.

‘Pouring Gasoline’ continues in a trend of UK bands rejecting perfectly serviceable “petrol” for its sexier American counterpart. It’s a fairly bland instrumental, although well-produced, despite the high-octane allure of the track’s title. ‘Black Limousine’ is another tedious pop-punk ballad in the manner of ‘Round the Bend’ that seems to abandon the ironic tone built up at the beginning of the album.

The song ‘K West’ does briefly return to what was established on the first ten minutes of Celebrity Mansions with its fantasy of rich-list idleness as the protagonist complains that he’s “too busy being a millionaire” and refers to watching a movie with Dwayne Johnson (who appears in cardboard cut-out form in the video for ‘Back Foot’). It’s a welcome reprise of themes touched on in the opening and features many lyrical gems such as “I quit drugs because my mum got scared” and “I got 100 million real close friends”.

Now back on track, the album tries to delve deeper into the realities of fame on the song ‘Professional Freak’, but only manages to shift the topsoil. Our protagonist laments that “everyone says there’s something wrong with me” but fails to substantiate on this claim. Celebrity Mansions ends on this frustratingly unanswered question and fades out on the generic ‘Long Way Down’.

Like the narrative it tries to portray, Celebrity Mansions offers up polished production and a glamorised vision of the rock and roll lifestyle. Beyond the fairly obvious suggestion that this is far from reality and that anyone actively pursuing such a romanticised goal is, more often than not, a desperate loser, it offers little in the way of either psychological insight or satire. Barring stand-out singles there is still plenty of outdated, if impeccably slick, filler.

Celebrity Mansions is out now on Parlophone Records.

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