Album Reviews

The Grates – Gravity Won’t Get You High

(Universal) UK release date: 17 July 2006

Sometimes you just need some music to cheer you up. Loll about melancholically to Nick Drake or Radiohead by any means but sometimes you need an album to put on very loud and bounce around the room to.

Brisbane trio The Grates obviously believe in that philosophy. Anyone who’s caught their recent support slots of The Go! Team or The Zutons will have been struck by lead singer Patience Hodgson’s irrepressible energy and the band’s simple yet joyfully effective garage pop songs.

For their debut album, Gravity Won’t Get You High, The Grates have drafted in Modest Mouse producer Brian Deck. This has led to fears amongst hardcore fans that the edge and rawness that make The Grates such a compelling prospect live may be lost, but Deck successfully transfers the band’s effervescence and verve to the studio setting.

The comparisons to Yeah Yeah Yeahs are unavoidable – garage rock trio, fronted by charismatic frontwoman – but there’s a real pop sensibility to The Grates as well. Lead single 19 20 20 has bursts of brass and an instantly addictive chorus that makes it more effective to wake up to than a dozen espressos. The hand claps and glorious chorus of Science Is Golden is another highlight, as is the adorable dizziness of Nothing Sir.

One criticism that has been levelled at The Grates is that they can be somewhat, ahem, grating. It’s true that their sound may not be to everyone’s tastes, and an opening track liked I Won’t Survive, sung by Hodgson in a bizarre faux-operatic style, may put people off from the start. Yet that leads straight into the marvellously knockabout Lies, with its pay off of “I’m gonna go like this to you, I’m gonna go like this to you, I’m gonna go like this to you – LALALALALA!” which could well be one of the great pop moments of the year.

Besides, it’s not all fun, fun fun. Feels Like Pain has a brooding bassline and features Hodgson screaming “pain” at the top of her voice like a reincarnated Kurt Cobain. It nods to the Pixies and has a similar air of drama about it. It’s one of the best tracks on the album.

Sometimes it does go a bit awry however – Seek Me seems rushed and half-thought out, a contender for a B-side if ever there was one, while Sukkafish, one of the highlights of the The Ouch The Touch EP, is ruined by the addition of a totally unnecessary banjo, turning the song into a countrified dirge.

Yet overall, the good moments far outweigh the bad moments, and when closing track I Am Siam stretches out magnificently over the course of its four minutes, its quite easy to believe that The Grates are here for the long haul. For now though, this is certainly a debut guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

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The Grates – Gravity Won’t Get You High