The Grates – Teeth Lost, Hearts Won

The Grates’ debut album Gravity Won’t Make You High debuted in the ARIA Top Ten, and went on to sell over 50,000 copies, no doubt assisted by their infectious live show, featuring larger-than-life frontwoman Patience. The Grates have always been a divisive band, with some criticising them for being too lightweight (although that seems a little like hating a puppy for being too cute). However, new album Teeth Lost, Hearts Won sees them take a darker, more complex approach. Although it may not convert any of the haters, it’s always good to see a band take a chance creatively, and hit a few top notes along the way.

Opening number and lead single Burn Bridges is more of the pop rock we’ve come to expect from the Grates. It even comes complete with a hand-clapping bridge tailor-made for their live show. Carve Your Name is more of the same, while The Fun In Every Start is a short piano-and-vocals interlude. Two Kinds Of Right and Milk Eyes show the new slightly darker side of Grates, while Aw Yeah is more of anthemic and moshable – although a little stop-start.

It’s the second half of this album that sees The Grates really hit their stride. Storms And Fevers has Patience trying out some more soulful vocals, and has a real sense of doom and foreboding, before going out with some chanted group vocals, reminiscent of Modest Mouse track The World At Large. The guitar playing that opens Earthquakes has a manic intensity like nothing the Grates have ever tried before, and then so do the vocals when they arrive. Not Today sees John get to try some slide guitar, and the guest vocals from Tim Fite make it sound like a demented duet.

When You’re Scared Of Dogs starts out like standard Grates, but some howling dogs and harmonica, and some darker lyrics – “Fuck the purebreds, fuck fuck the Queen, if you can’t hear them howling then you won’t hear me scream” – lift this song to the next level. The indie-rock danceability of the bombastic Let It Die should see it turn into a live favourite, and album closer The Biggest And The Longest wraps up the album with a tight package of pop.

As usual, the drum work by Alana and John’s guitar play are excellent, but its Patience’s jumpy, manic, intense personality that hangs over this whole album – even in the darker moments. There’s much more diversity here than on Gravity, both in intent, and instrumentation.

Gravity was definitely a party album, a natural result of being a live band first, and recorded band second. Teeth Lost, Hearts Won sees the band flex their creative muscles and take a few risks – most of which pay off. There’s no evidence of second-album syndrome here – Teeth Lost, Hearts Won is actually better than its predecessor.

Teeth Lost, Hearts Won is out August 2 through Dew Process/Universal Music. You can catch The Grates losing teeth and winning hearts as they take the Supertop stage at Splendour In The Grass on Sunday 3 August. Then, in October, they hit the road for a national tour – proudly presented by FasterLouder.

Thursday October 2nd – Sands Tavern, Sunshine Coast

Friday October 3rd – The Arena, Brisbane

Saturday October 4th – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast

Sunday October 5th – The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay

Wednesday October 8th – 21 Arms, Ballarat

Thursday October 9th – Peninsula Lounge, Moorooduc

Friday October 10th – Hi Fi Bar, Melbourne

Sunday October 12th – Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide

Wednesday October 15th – Wollongong Uni Bar, Wollongong

Friday October 17th – Metro Theatre, Sydney

Saturday October 18th – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Thursday October 23rd – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury

Friday October 24th – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River

Saturday October 25th – Capitol Bar, Perth