Nature Nurture does have some mainstream qualities to it. The album thrives on big power pop-rock chords and huge riffs reminiscent of maturing Weezer-esque music. They are trying to make epic one-off rock music and succeed at it with plenty of precision and polish.
It is enough to make you wonder, at times, if the band is growing up too fast for its own good, giving up some of the material in between their edgier introduction and their much more purposeful stride today. It feels that way listening to Derail, but thankfully not the entire album.
Nature Nurture marks a band looking to step over, with mixed results.
Opening with Arizona Waiting, Dinosaur Pile-Up puts its best foot forward with an anthemic rocker that could easily recast itself as classic rock. The track gives up some lyrical prowess in favor of feeling catchy but it works nonetheless.
The band follows up with Derail, which is indicative of the pop songs Bigland has said all along that he wanted to write. It still has enough power to wake you up but doesn't necessarily kick you in the face like some of the band's early and more intense rockers.
A much better rendition of the sound Dinosaur Pile-Up ought to be chasing around is Peninsula. Sure, there is something familiar about its "we party and play hard" message. But it also retains some of the band's alternative punk-infused lyrics, with Bigland chanting to "be what you want, say what you feel, do what you please, take what you got, do it forever."
The song might rub against that power pop notion, but it does so while preserving a rock edge. It's a great song, likely the best one on the 13-track album. It even helps carry Heather, a mostly straightforward cheat-and-break-up song that sounds good even if you don't care so much about it.
The promise of an upstart relationship in Summer Girl is much more inspired. It carries a sun-drenched classic rock sound that will take some people back a few decades while still sounding fresh, perfect for any all-day beach playlist. Put White T-Shirt And Jeans on the list too. Even without having the same depth, the song perfectly rolls out some reminiscent relationship casualty.
After White T-Shirt, Dinosaur Pile-Up drifts back and forth between rockers and power pop, with the rockers keeping the upper hand. The upbeat and energetic Draw A Line, low-noted drone of Nature Nurture, and the mellow chug of Should all measure up. Bruise Violet has its moments too.
But those that rely too much on pop sensibilities like The Way We Came, Lip Hook Kiss, and Start Again have a much harder time holding anyone's attention. Other than a couple of cool lyrical lines tucked inside these tracks, the compositions begin to feel less familiar and more predictable. (The instrumental inside Lip Hook Kiss aside.)
In sum, it leaves listeners with a lot to wonder about. Dinosaur Pile-Up could have been taken in plenty of different directions after Growing Pains. Nature Nurture sometimes convinces you that the band chose the right one and sometimes not. At the lowest points, I found myself thumbing back to older tracks like Mona Lisa, Hey Man, and My Rock 'n' Roll. I missed them.
Nature Nurture By Dinosaur Pile-Up Plows 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
As a band in transition, everyone wants to know where Dinosaur Pile-Up will end up. It's nearly impossible to say after listing to Nature Nurture. For every track that rocks, there is another that drags it down. The album isn't deficient per se, but sometimes it slides into the background.