The Grates – Secret Rituals (Dew Process)
By Victoria Birch
Lucky old Cleopatra. Age didn’t wither her but it sure as hell has done its worst with me. Not physically (okay, yes physically but that’s not for now). I mean the war with time I’ve been waging since the age of 15 and a quarter. Specifically, the day I realised that all those incredible sounds, all the stuff written for me and about me, everything that was blazing a scorching revolutionary sonic trail was actually reheated, rehashed and about as revolutionary as my parents (finding out Santa was just my dad in a cheap nylon red suit had nothing on the moment I discovered ‘Tainted Love’ was indebted to his record collection).
When I grew up it was a delight to realise that the past was a treasure trove of goodness. But the longer I live, the harder it is to quell the spiteful little cow in my head that bitches all day long about how “this sounds like that” and “that sounds like this” and rolls her eyes at the futility of ‘new music’.
She’s wrong of course, and it’s all about sorting the imitators from the conquerors. Recognising the difference between someone who lets history tell them what to do vs. someone who grabs history by the scruff of the neck, gives it a good kicking behind the bike sheds and nails it to the wall with a huge bloodied sign saying THIS IS MINE.
I so hoped Secret Rituals would deliver that bloodied sign. That The Grates would take Kim Deal’s bass and drown it in an acid bath. Neuter Karen O’s show-pony and crown Patience Hodgson as the new queen of scream and colour. I wanted Electrelane’s guitars and Sleater-Kinney’s angsty yelps to burn high on a funeral pyre as their heirs sang strange incantations about the spirits that could now run wild through Secret Rituals.
There’s no blood though. No funeral pyres. No crowning and no acid baths. There’s a lot of reverence and studied imitation of some very great sounds.
Somehow it wasn’t an issue for early Grates.
There’s a whole lot that’s familiar in ‘Trampoline’, but it’s delightfully lacking in self-awareness. There’s no denying Corin Tucker’s warble on those top notes but it’s so playful. There’s a sense the band are aware of some awesome stuff that happened a decade or so ago – but it’s vague and tantalising. Irrelevant but present.
This is much more self-conscious.
As if Patience prised open the girl-band Pandora’s Box and suddenly found herself chained to a past that has every intention of calling the shots. Of course, if you’re 15 Secret Rituals will be bliss. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when someone gives you a copy of The Hot Rock when you’re 15 and a quarter.