Here’s a band that I’ve followed since their early days. That said, technically it still is the “early days” as the band have only been going since around late 2016. They’ve been consistently brilliant live and have carved their own little niche in the Northeast scene.
What they do, they do really well and it’s impossible not to adore their sound. Some critics might be a bit harsh in comparing them to some obvious influences (that will not be mentioned here!). It’s all too easy to dismiss music that way and not truly enjoy it for what it is. Dunes make fantastic anthemic riff-fests with tongue in cheek witty lyrics. There is nothing quite like them in the local scene and they’ve been a delight to witness as they evolved from their fist lineup as a four-piece then moving smoothly to three-piece as guitarist Scott departed. Since then they’ve released two well received EPs and have played countless gigs around the country.
At long last we get their debut LP! The LP will be released on legendary Durham based label Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Steve Strong). I’ve been basking in this rifforama album for a month or two and have been trying to put it into words. I’m not sure I can. To me, Dunes is more of a feeling than a definable sound. They bring a smile to my grumpy face.
The title track ‘Take Me To The Nasties’ kicks off the record and is classic Dunes. A well-placed track allows them to set out their stall and prepare you for a hook and riff barrage. Ten meaty tracks, smashed out in just under 43 minutes. It’s a no-nonsense, no ostentation album that will draw you back for repeated listens. Denim Casket proves the album standout and has become a live favourite recently.
The sound and production is really solid, the bass tone is simply lush, that coupled with one of the finest drummers in the region and the magic touch of singer/guitarist John Davies, everything he seems to be involved with turns to audio gold. The production recorded at their rehearsal rooms by Graham Thompson remarkably captures the Dunes sound and brings a vibrant live feel, yet polished and subtle. It’s the perfect balance for a band like Dunes. No gross over production and endless overdubs. The sound is minimal and all the more impactful for it.
It’s an album that you just want to crank up and bob your head until it hurts. Which, I must admit I have done, sorry neighbours! Dunes are a good old fashioned hook driven party band. It’s simply impossible not to smile and adore this record.
Dunes released their first EP only last year. Short and packed full of energy, the release showcased the Newcastle trios brand of compact and infectious desert rock. The grainy guitar tones and thunderous drumming, as well as a keen sense of melody, are somewhat reminiscent of large parts of the Queens of the Stone Age catalogue.
Not even 12 months later and the band are back, offering their latest release and second EP. The new release offers much of the same as far as style goes. Still compact, EP2 boasts another 5 tracks that walk the line between desert and stoner rock while expanding on what came before it.
While describing the guitar tone as grainy was no insult, the new material bites that bit harder and with a little more clarity. The result is a release that continues the knack for writing contagious choruses while packing a more explosive punch.
Opening track Everything is OK is a ray of light. Upbeat and defiantly positive, it encompasses the bands approach to easily-digested and irresistible hooks with a pop sensibility, laced with biting stoner riffs. There’s even a rather superb use of hand-clapping.
Seapig is probably the most melodious track on the record, with a tuneful chorus and subtle vocal harmonies before the band break it down into a groove and perhaps their meanest riff to date. There is more groove to be found on Simian Circus along with a furious, machine-gun-like bass and Black Bridge is textbook, brooding, Kyuss-style desert rock.
Bringing the record to a close with the pacy, psychedelic outro to Illegitimate Hulk I’m left to conclude that while the latest EP is very much a continuation of the first, it’s the result of a band growing in ability and fine-tuning their craft, in capturing the energy of their live performances on record and in showcasing their strengths in the studio. EP2 suggests that when the time comes for a debut full length, the strides forward taken here should help to ensure that it is as good as it can be and personally I can’t wait to hear it.