Grinspoon – Black Rabbits

If ‘Six To Midnight’ was a nod to their past, Grinspoon’s seventh album ‘Black Rabbits’ certainly hints at their future, writes TIM KLINGBIEL.

Aussie rock stalwarts Grinspoon’s seventh LP Black Rabbits is an interesting next step. Where the band started out making punk and heavy rock between 1995’s self-titled EP and 1999’s Easy, with tales of deceased feline sightings sandwiched between sweat-inducing anarchic vitriol and teen angst-ridden skate punk, their work since has veered into more radio-ready – but still often excellent – territory.

2009’s Six To Midnight, their previous studio album, hinted at a return to the earlier sound, with heavier moments more prominent and ubiquitous than the previous three LPs. But if that record was a nod to their past, Black Rabbits certainly hints at their future. Perhaps the first sign that the winds are changing is the TR-808 drum machine that appears on ‘Passerby’. Seemingly a minor detail, it’s only when one tries to imagine it appearing on any other Grinspoon record that it stands out as a landmark moment. However, the track itself fails to explore new territory, relying on the tried-and-tested radio rock template that’s served them so well in the past.

Frontman Phil Jamieson has been through some very public trials and tribulations in recent years, and these experiences often show through in his lyrics, which vary from wounded melancholy to sage acceptance. ‘Final Reward’ is polished and well-structured, though undeniably safe, but ‘Beaujolais’ is much more fun, with the band enlisting the services of fellow Australian greats Tim Rogers and Chris Cheney on the decidedly jolly chorus of “whoa-ohs” and “yeah-ehs”. The dark ‘Carry On’ is a highlight, as Jamieson plays the role of lamenting ex-lover to perfection. ‘Full Moon’ is an interesting departure from the band’s usual style, but ends up sounding somewhat formulaic.

“Black Rabbits falls down somewhat in that neither the softer or harder moments are as strong as they once were”

‘Emergency’, ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Battleground’ are probably the most high-energy tracks of the set. They’re the few moments where you could imagine punters getting somewhat amped up to in regional pubs. In a way, the record’s lack of intensity is disappointing – even on previous records where they showed off their knack of great ballads, the moments of power were more captivating than they are here. Rather than displaying the typical signs of maturation – which records like New Detention, Thrills, Kills and Sunday Pills and Alibis and Other Lies had already displayed in spades – Black Rabbits falls down somewhat in that neither the softer or harder moments are as strong as they once were.

While the potential was there for Grinspoon to pull that combination off with aplomb, on Black Rabbits it’s not fully realised. The effort to redefine the band’s style is evident, and the lyrics are not weak by any stretch, but in comparison to the band’s previous work, it’s devoid of the necessary vicissitudes that merit repeated listening.