Review: Dorsal Fins – Mind Renovations

Expect nothing normal from the release of the debut album from Melbourne-based Dorsal Fins, a quirky and vibrant 10-piece, on the periphery of tentative indie-pop. Oozing with innovation, Mind Renovations embodies some interesting ideas, with their medley of brass, synth and bizarre vocals; finding their niche on the Melbourne music scene. This conglomeration is the brainchild of Liam McGorry, from preceding bands, parallel in their novelty, Saskwatch and Eagle and the Worm. Established as an experimental project, McGorry, along with a few ex-band mates, explored the limitations of recording and mixing the whole album in just seven days, culminating in an admirable execution, under the diminished and ambitious timescale.

The tracks are a little cluttered at times, and can be guilty of being deprived of some coherent structure, but maybe that is part of its charm. Predominantly erratic and volatile, it doesn’t evade all of the recognisable themes; with a non-distinctive vocal resemblance to The XX in ‘Fell’ and ‘Jacqueline’s echo filled avant-garde social commentary, similar to that of the inimitable and eccentric La Shark. Despite these recurring instances of familiarity, MR does deliver well with succinct moments of big band brass segments. The title track is a perfect illustration of this, transforming from a slightly edgy indie record into a wonderfully jaunty tune, accompanied by a paradoxically climactic intro. With a couple of unsensational filler tracks, this isn’t the most polished album, but an encouraging debut compilation, ostensibly glued together with Ella Thompson’s eerie voice, especially striking on my most favoured track, ‘Monday Tuesday’.

The elements of dreamy psych-rock and sporadic layering put Dorsal Fins worlds apart from your average indie ensemble. The depth of the sound is very apparent, but the song lengths are indubitably snappy, their longest track barely getting over four minutes. It’s a shame, because one would feel you really can take it a step further, and possibly expand the ideas within songs to a longer playtime. Groups like The Maccabees, for instance, had humble beginnings with their early, more concise records, however progressed into something more powerful and dramatic. I understand that I’m possibly overseeing their aspirations for MR; nevertheless an inspired sense of atmosphere and increased duration could have enhanced the overall impact.

I love the juxtaposition of dulcet tones and alt-indie pop vibes, which are stunningly portrayed in the mesmerizingly psychedelic music videos. Mind Renovations looks like an LSD-induced, Japanese 80s version of a Tame Impala video on a broken VHS. The visuals couldn’t be more pertinent and fitting to the style of Dorsal Fins; nonetheless the questionably juvenile album art is an ugly blemish on the refreshingly offbeat aesthetics.

They may be on the fringe of a small hipster music scene, yet have stirred some hype within this collective group; and with more upcoming shows and the conglomerating fan base of the bands predecessors, The Bamboos and New Gods, they are set to have an exciting future. Subjectively, I would tweak some negligible details, but I like this risky unpredictable approach, firmly detached from the vogue. The album is undeniably brave and endearing; hopefully a promising infrastructure for forthcoming projects.

Mind Renovations  is out now via Gripless / Remote Control Records



Review by Tim Barnes