Velociraptor will never abandon their signatures: simple lyrics yelled by upwards of five members at once, scratchy guitars, and drums that move at a similar pace to a heart recovering from a beep-test. But within these surf-pop constraints there is room to move; and it would appear that after a number of EPs over the past few years Velociraptor have come to realize this.
Various factors have compartmentalised the band throughout the album’s recording – members relocating overseas, the inevitable commitments to other bands that derives from playing in Brisbane’s incestuous scene, and above all else; their sheer membership, which varies between about 12 and 15. However, these factors have done little to obscure the end result of their first full-length release. This is an album that doesn’t greatly deviate from their earlier work, but the ways in which it does summon a much higher sense of pop-sophistication than before.
Lead songwriter Jeremy Neale’s tracks mostly fit a similar ilk – hurried surf-pop with structural, melodic and lyrical simplicity. There seems a shift within the songs; the vocal lines moving away from the abrupt garage screams of their previous releases, further towards syrupy 60s pop melodies. An appeasing feature of any release, this renders the album less raw and frankly, more listenable, than their previous EPs. Simple progressions and at-times muffled instrumentals pave space for Neale’s melodic charm, particularly in tracks like the lead single ‘Ramona’ and ‘Leeches’. But with this said, fans of Velociraptor’s characteristically brazen, messier songs may be disappointed. While much of this is maintained, the crooner-pop element of the release is difficult to detach from frontman Neale’s solo releases – and thus represent a departure from the band’s garage-party era (live however, I can’t be sure).
But what fundamentally separates this album from Neale’s solo material is the lyrical darkness. A sense of hopelessness emerges early on that seldom breaks throughout the album’s fourteen tracks. Break-ups, expired love and difficult partners take precedence within the release – begging speculation on whether this album is more of a personal feat for Neale than a party rock affair. Relief comes in the form of co-member Joshua Byrd’s lone track ‘I Don’t Know Why (It’s You)’; a pert pop ballad, middle-eight and all, about drunkenly finding love at first sight. Similarly refreshing is the spoken rock’n’roll sensibility of ‘All You Need’; written by another long-time member James Boyd. Its limited use of twangy chords, power keys, and droning, nonchalant lyrical delivery renders it a seemingly Aussie-accented cousin of a Modern Lovers song.
But aside from this, Velociraptor have fine tuned their debut LP to encompass a musical paradox; upbeat pop tracks about heartbreak. While it may lack the rasp of their earlier, messier, slew of EPs, the collective’s first album signals a laudably refined exploration within their much loved sphere of surf-pop.