ALBUM REVIEW: The Dismemberment Plan, Uncanney Valley
The last time The Dismemberment Plan released an album, Napster and the Backstreet Boys were in their heyday and un-ironically popular. Let that sink in. It’s been a long twelve years, and to quote the band’s new material, “Like a clock that ticks and ticks / But never moves / And never grooves / Ain’t got the time for waiting” – Planheads (yes, I’m calling us that): the time has come.
The band still has a knack for playing the outsider. Whoever Morrison is when he sings “Invisible, yeah that’s me / Sure, sometimes it gets a little lonely” is the same guy who, fifteen years ago, sang “You can tell / Every time they lean away when you just wanna talk / You couldn’t buy their interest now.” They’re the poster band for those who feel not quite part of the group. On the other hand, there are way more love songs here than on any other Plan record – they’re not ballads, per se, but most of the group has settled down – and it shows. On ‘Lookin’’, Morrison sings sweetly about how sometimes, he just gets stuck looking at his SO and totally misses what she says. No grand, sweeping, John Cusack boombox absurdity. It’s this simple sentimentality that also made ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ so popular.
That’s not to say they’re not still weird as shit, in the best way. Travis Morrison still makes as little sense as ever. On the opening song ‘No One’s Saying Nothing’ he continually refers to himself as a “fat nun on drugs drowning in hugs”. What? But the nifty thing is you’ll still sing along, because not only does Morrison make being a fat nun on drugs cool, but the song grooves like no other. ‘White Collar White Trash’ is probably the catchiest song about an upscale gigolo in existence – and DMV-based fans will dig all the regional references, as much as we did when Morrison sang about his temp job on King Street.
Musically, they sound tighter than ever. Drummer Joe Easley still comes up with the funkiest, most original rhythms out there, but never for the sake of weirdness. Same thing applies to bassist Eric Axelson – inventive, perfectly suited, and never overwrought. If you want to be schooled in what a proper rhythm section sounds like, look no further. Keys take on a life of their own in the form of organ, piano, and synth sounds, thanks to keyboardist/guitarist Jason Caddell. It could be argued that the ivories haven’t been this varied on any of their other records.
If you’re looking for ‘Emergency & I’ part two, you’re in the wrong place. Of all the things that make Plan fans so diehard, an important feature is that they have a very distinct sound without ever being in a position to be pigeonholed. ‘Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer’ sounds more Motion City Soundtrack than ‘The City’, but it’s still quintessential DPlan. And like the band has said in almost every interview leading up to this release, nothing about this music was forced. It all happened organically, and the camaraderie shows. “We don’t leave anyone behind / We go and get it, together this time / We can’t be stopped, not much else to say / And it feels so good to be on our way” they sing on ‘Go and Get It’. Boys, it shows. And we dig it.
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