There is a common misconception I’ve found amongst some North Americans that punk rock in the U.K. died somewhere in the late 1980s. In truth, the `90s scenes across the pond turned out some fantastic and representative melodic punk, with bands like Broccoli, China Drum and Leatherface. On Graft, Leeds natives the Dauntless Elite create music in a similar tradition with obvious nods to American Midwestern counterparts.
I’ve always found the risk with this kind of music is for things to turn into a bit of a blur, with pleasant enough melodies but everything sort of melding into a shout-along mess. The opening cut, “Running Battle” unfortunately doesn’t give much to to think otherwise. However, as the album progresses, the Dauntless Elite prove to have a great deal of diversity from song to song. “Gina U R A Bastard Liar” prominently features upstroke guitar, which provides an ideal environment for a pogo session. The buildup in the chorus of “I Am Ninja, My Life Is Lonely and Difficult” shows a well-seasoned knowledge of tension and release. The band slows down the tempo significantly in “It Takes a Ship to Sail” and pulls it off remarkably well with one of the catchiest songs on the album. While not every song is a winner, aspects like these ensure that each song retains its own identity within the whole of the album.
Though each song retains its own identity, that isn’t to say there isn’t a unified sense of cohesion to the album because there is. Organ is employed on a number of songs to help the proceedings coalesce, but is used sparingly enough to not overstay its welcome. An over-abundance of long sound clips can often detract from songs themselves, but once again the Dauntless Elite know when to say when and use them just enough. Lyrically, the album features common themes of dissatisfaction with the current state of life and desire to leave or change, but the lyrics themselves are often delivered in a thoughtful and poignant manner. Take for instance this line from “Our Own Legend”: "No man dreams of dying for freedom, no woman to die for liberty. A symptom of our textbook history, that leaves the names and leaves the faces, and leaves the dates but never memories and histories."
Although certainly not genre-defining by any means, Graft presents the listener with an album of well-written material with enough variation to sustain attention spans not only for the entire duration but to require repeated listens. If you are a fan of the genre this is definitely something you want to check out, and if you aren’t there is still enough songwriting chops to sway you.