Anyone else think that Dune Rats’ shtick has really worn out its welcome? It should be stressed that that’s not an exclusive complaint to them; in fact, you can apply it to any number of baked slacker-punks who all serve as infinitesimally granular variations on the exact same theme. Chances are The Chats will face the brunt of the same conversation later in the year, but right now, it’s Dune Rats’ turn on an album that—almost by design—stands in more or less complete stasis to where Hurry Up And Wait was a few years back. To be totally fair, it’s not like that album was terrible, but it also wasn’t a body of work that could withstand being propped up for more. And yet, right down to the profoundly unappealing artwork, Real Rare Whale is just that, alternating between scant yet over-familiar moments of adrenaline and a lack of much development at all. Even on Space Cadet and how Danny Beus lists his grand aspirations and goals in life, never committing to achieve them shows that Dune Rats can’t escape how deeply they’ve dug themselves into a hole of borderline caricature. It’s perhaps most egregious on Drink All Day and a hook of “If you drink all day, you’d better start in the morning” that’s predictable even for this band, and still only a few steps from how similarly wheel-spinning What A Memorable Night is. By comparison, UP and Pamela Aniston have a buffer of childlike sparkle to them that curtails the most groaning of Dune Rats’ flaws, namely how desperate they are to keep up this particular image despite the threadbare lengths it’s currently been stretched to. Rarely does it actually feel as much fun as the band are having (or, at least, putting on the facade that they’re having).
That’s about as far as Dune Rats go conceptually, and to give them their dues, they’re wise enough to not hang around with it too much. It’s a pretty quick listen, to its advantage, and on the basis on garage-rock with next to no flexibility, there’s the shadow of an effort here. UP is a bit poppier thanks to its shuffling, taut percussion that’s actually forms a nicely kinetic backbone, and Skate Or Don’t’s central melody even tips its hat to ska-punk in a fun, albeit incredibly mild, deviation. On the whole too, Dune Rats aren’t beholden to being as scrappy as possible like some of their contemporaries, instead repurposing that for rougher texturing for their guitars and bass which is a neat touch. It steers away from the blaring obnoxiousness of like acts for a more palatable listen overall, and it’s not like Dune Rats are incapable of using that to their advantage for catchier songs either. But when they aren’t aiming all that high or they’re trying to keep in place the rigid, restrictive image that they’ve effectively locked themselves into, it’s just the usual case of an album with replay value in tatters and precious little to rectify that. There’s no deeper messaging or cool instrumental nuggets that come from a deep-dive exploration; after one or two listens, that’s all the mileage you’re getting, as is a disappointingly regular occurrence with Dune Rats albums. Basically, your enjoyment with Real Rare Whale is entirely correlative with how much you’ve enjoyed Dune Rats’ past works, because you’re not getting anything different with this one.
For fans of: FIDLAR, The Chats, SWMRS
‘Real Rare Whale’ by Dune Rats is released on 29th July on BMG.
Words by Luke Nuttall