In their previous incarnation as Beastmilk, Grave Pleasures released Climax – one of the finest, danceably catchy, anthemic debut albums of the last decade.
It doesn’t take very long into a listen of Dreamcrash to realise this is a different beast. For one, Kurt Ballou’s lush, abrasive production has been replaced by a more stripped-down, punkier sound that adds to the frosty edge, but robs it of initial impact. More importantly, the hedonistic atmosphere has changed.
While Climax felt like a last desperate fuck in the corner of a debauched party taking place in the path of nuclear armageddon, Dreamcrash feels more like a trawl through the pathetic dregs of humanity that managed to survive the near-apocalypse, trying to find joy in a Fallout-esque nuclear winter. This does take a play or two to get into as a result – this is not an instant romp, by any means, and is not an easy listen.
There are, however, bags of feeling and ambience to the music. The guitar flourishes topping the post-punky, rocking base of riffs are skilful, while Kvohst’s signature vocals are full of personality and character. He may be slightly more Jello Biafra than Ian Curtis this time out, but he’s not lost his ear for a hook.
The angular weirdness of Utopian Scream is counterbalanced by lyrical verse and chorus of New Hip Moon, while the staccato punk delivery of Futureshock feels like Holiday In Cambodia set in a world too ruined to save.
Add in two classy ballads (one, Crisis, is the most accessible, instant song on the album), a killer blues lament in Crooked Vein, and an implacable closer that feels like acceptance of death’s inevitability, and you have a record that it becomes increasingly easy to lose your shit to the more you listen to it.
Dreamcrash does take a while to reveal itself. The shallow, retro production is not helpful, and the hooks are less front-and-centre, so fans of Beastmilk may initially be disappointed, but should persevere. These songs will sound amazing live, and once the recording worms its way in, it becomes hard to resist the urge to dance – not through joy, but because there’s nothing else left in the world.