With members straddling alternative band realities as diverse as DZ Deathrays, The Keep On Dancins and Tiny Migrants, the twelve to fifteen headed (depending on who’s available and left standing) garage-party musical collective known as Velociraptor is one of the more dynamic propositions on the Australian live music scene. Previous releases may have pitched them firmly as raw retro revivalists , but for their debut self titled release they’ve largely bypassed the Kinks-Ramones-Hives inflected garage chant-alongs that characterized their earlier work in favour of a more polished, contemporary sound.
Nine of the record’s eleven tracks were written by unofficial band leader Jeremy Neale, whose solo pedigree and songwriting chops are on full display across the breadth of the album. In recent interviews Neale talks about band and life circumstance dictating a change in musical direction. And yes the skies over Raptorville are somewhat more cloudy this time around, the lyrics and overall vibe darker and more contemplative than their previously rumbustious, carefree tendencies.
It’s hard not to dish up the dreaded ‘mature’ descriptor when evaluating the band’s sound on this record, but the good news is that The Raptors manage to successfully straddle the tricky divide between artistic evolution and remaining connected to their original vigour and spunk without tumbling down a steaming sinkhole of self prolifigating blandness. The songs are still catchy as hell, and with so many diverse influences within their ranks the hammers of musical subterfuge are never too far beneath the surface, keeping things relatively edgy and interesting for the most part.
Opening track Robocop is a snappy new wave scene setter, while the polished pop sheen of The Right To Call You has a pleasing sting in the tail via the angular scree of a guitar solo that surfaces half way through the track.
Plenty of sugar coated pop delights abound, from the sweet “ooh oooh’s” of Last Serenade featuring Sweetie Zamora, through to the power pop tendencies of Hollywood Teen, which concludes on a wistful strum of echoed vocals, acoustic guitar, tambourine and keyboards.
Meanwhile the James Boyd penned All You Need delivers a glorious dose of the mass harmonised backing vocals which the band are renowned for during the chorus.
Crackingly catchy single Ramona is bound to get stuck in your head for days, and features the memorable opening line, “Ramona I told you, I can’t sit next to you in the cinema, when you’re texting other guys.”
Monster Mash delivers another dose of new wave’ish pop while Leeches elicits a vaguely English post punk feel in its sombrely chanted chorus.
Largely bypassing the 60s and landing squarely in the 80s and 90s, Velociraptor have dropped a debut record that beats with a shiny pop heart. While certainly not as raucously raw as previous incantations, it still manages to elicit their renowned singalongs and good time party vibes in equal measure, even with those darker lyrical clouds hanging overhead.