wears the trousers magazine

the grates: teeth lost, hearts won (2009)
July 22, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: , , , ,

Read the rest of our Australia Week reviews here.


The Grates
Teeth Lost, Hearts Won •••½
Dew Process

Confidence does not seem to be an issue for Aussie trio The Grates. Finally getting an international release after being out in Australia for nearly a year, Teeth Lost, Hearts Won sees singer Patience Hodgson, drummer Alana Skyring and guitarist John Patterson boldly attempt to expand their musical palette without destroying all they’ve built together as a band. They are at their most successful in this venture when their innately innocent, enthusiastic and unique approach to melody takes hold of the reins, leading to an ever-changing kaleidoscope of bright sounds and distorted guitars. A soaring-trill of flutes proudly leads off the wildly energetic opener ‘Burn Bridges’, signalling the tone of the rest of the album. By contrast, their weakest moments are often when those sounds are tamed to the point of power-pop mediocrity.

A common hazard for any band that makes its house in a land of sugary pop songs with a punk education, occasionally it comes out too sweet. Thankfully those moments are few and far between due in no small part to the band members themselves – who stepped up as co-producers for the first time in their careers. Hodgson’s songwriting has matured since 2006’s Gravity Won’t Get You High, producing a flood of songs with more depth and subtlety than they had before. Yet curiously obscure verses that confuse more than they inspire still appear from time to time. ‘Milk Eyes’, for example, maintains a sweet sentiment aided in part by backing vocals from Mates Of State’s Kori Gardner, but turn attention to the lyrics and it suddenly becomes an ambiguous mess of double negatives and unfinished thoughts.

Often inexplicably compared to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, for no other reason it seems than both bands contain one guitarist, one drummer and an outspoken female singer; in reality the two bands sound almost nothing alike. Instead, The Grates would make better company among bands like Tilly & The Wall, OK Go or fellow Aussies-turned-Yanks, Origami, who share their irreverent and fun loving sound. The type of band you put on when its time for shameless living room dancing, whether alone or at a party. It is this same lightheartedness that makes them a point of contention for most critics, with those who are not prone to listening to generally “happy” music tending to review them rather harshly. While it is clear that there is some room for improvement, it is also apparent that, considering the hard work they put into both their live shows and the recording process, they will only continue to improve. Even if they do insist on making you smile.

Elyse Cain
UK release date: 14/09/09; www.myspace.com/thegrates

‘Aw Yeah’


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