There’s definitely worth to simplicity in music. Not every album has to be some complex, multi-layered odyssey, either musically or lyrically, and embracing that notion while still being appealing and enjoyable has just as much merit to it. However, it’s when it goes too far that problems can arise, and that’s the camp that Dune Rats have frequently fallen in. They’ve often been comparable to FIDLAR in their roughened garage-punk sound and general slacker aesthetic, but are yet to undergo the same sort of dramatic evolution that FIDLAR did last year on Almost Free. That means that, in the runnings of garage-punk that’s able to be light and enjoyable without tripping over its own homogeneity, Dune Rats are falling behind, though the buzz behind new album Hurry Up And Weight at least suggests differently. This is their big major label debut for a start, and with hands in the pot like Jon Feldmann and Mike Green, there’s at least the anticipation of some kind of shake-up within the Dune Rats camp.
And that’s sort of true here, but Hurry Up And Wait still doesn’t feel like the sort of album to define Dune Rats’ path going forward in the way that Almost Free was. It endeavours to shake up the formula, but how far it gets is really up for debate, and the over-simplicity in this band’s approach that’s dogged them for a while now doesn’t seem to have been shed much. It’s definitely okay, and for a dose of garage-rock that’s at least a bit left of the norm, Hurry Up And Wait is listenable, but the inherent disposability in it remains pretty obvious, and that’s a rather large knock on its longevity and enjoyability.
Beyond all of that though, it’s worth pointing out that the move to their current major-label band status has had an effect on Dune Rats’ sound. It’s not an overpowering one – there’s still a raggedness to the overall tone as the guitars and vocals in particular retain their bashed-out, off-the-cuff quality – but there’s been a greater onus placed on slightly lighter tempos and touches of acoustic guitar in a way that’s a little more agreeable for a more casual listen. It’s similar to the idea that SWMRS had on Berkeley’s On Fire in placing a pop-rock focus in a garage-rock context, only a bit tighter and with production that’s slightly more polished. And honestly, it’s hard to say whether this is the best move that Dune Rats’ could’ve taken, as it takes a sound that was pretty ephemeral to begin with a places a thick, red circle around it to draw even more attention. It can be fashioned into something likable like with the big, chugging melodies of No Plans and Patience that evoke the liveliness and crunch of ‘90s alt-rock, but on the same scale there’s The Skids, already a rather forgettable song but finding its most workable anchor in a vocal run reminiscent of Sugar Ray’s Every Morning. It’s not hard to see the fun factor in it all, particularly when the band themselves aren’t even taking it the most seriously and Danny Beus’ natural Australian accent sees the lackadaisical charisma rocket up on its own, but there’s definitely a flimsiness here that a sub-half-hour runtime does nothing to remedy. If nothing else, it’s more a case of the pop-rock and garage-rock wires being crossed in the wrong ways; brevity can work for both, but combining the two and continuing to lean into that brevity can leave Hurry Up And Wait feeling a bit strapped for greater impact at times.
It seems slightly unfair to say that as well, because there have definitely been advancements made within the band on this album, particularly a more mature viewpoint that effectively pulls it off without being a whiplash transition from the looseness of their previous albums. There’s a weariness that comes from seeing those around them partaking in excessive drinking and drug use on Crazy, and questions about whether the disinterest and dismissal that others have of them making a living from being in a band on No Plans is justified. At the same time, there’s still the real possibility of giving in to peer pressure and falling back to those debauched ways on Rubber Arm and Stupid Is As Stupid Does, and while chiding others who do the same on Bad Habits can feel a bit out of character, the whole thing serves a nice conduit to make the growth and transition feel smoother. It’s here where Dune Rats’ simplicity actually does work; there’s hardly anything that could be called properly deep beyond the natural ruminations that growing up brings, but it’s progress nonetheless, and it’s still got enough accessibility to connect overall.
It’s why it’s hard to hate Hurry Up And Wait all that much. It’s certainly flawed and feels like a prime candidate to be forgotten when the annual garage-rock avalanche gets into full swing, but between a handful of solid hooks, melodies and lyrical focus, there’s nothing all too terrible here either. Dune Rats will inevitably have their audience who will find a lot more enjoyment out of this, even on a long term, but for the most part, Hurry Up And Wait serves its purpose as a sugar rush that hits the necessary beats before promptly fading away. It’d be nice if there was more here, but what Dune Rats have delivered does its job well enough regardless.
For fans of: SWMRS, FIDLAR, Polish Club
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Hurry Up And Wait’ by Dune Rats is released on 31st January on BMG Rights Management.