Gatsby's American Dream - Ribbons and Sugar
How dare I even attempt to dissect this album? I'm a fool, that's how. To sum up this band in one line: If Dillinger Escape Plan wrote a pop punk album, it would be Ribbons and Sugar.
This album experiences enough mood, dynamics, tempo, time, and key shifts to kill a lesser band. It's sort of like all of those pop punk bands like Story of the Year with skill and no noisome "emotional" screaming. I'll attempt a song by song breakdown, but I cannot really look at individual parts because they only last for mere measures and then GAD takes us back around to a new idea. Did I mention it's a fuc
king concept album based on George Orwell's Animal Farm
. Maybe a little ambitious but it's just crazy. Political satire + melodic punk + progressive rock? Sounds like a keeper!
Merely a prelude song there is the inital rush of a united clap, as if the animals were clapping for their uprising. Here enters the angular guitar (and as much as a I hate the overuse of the word angular for guitar work, it really is here and on the rest of the album). Then everything spills back out onto a lovely sung vocal section. Then the song builds up and climaxes just in time to really start the album.
We're Not Orphans
Immediately, the bass introduces to something GAD does really well. Harmonizes dissonance. They insert tons of chromaticisms and tritones and minor 2nds but they know how to harmonize everything so make something coherent out of the dissonance. So here you are left with locrian pop punk, which is something that very rarely stays catchy. GAD does it though. This song start slowly but picks up and plods along throughout some cool time shifts. In this song alone we hit up a significant 7 timen with your standard 4 coming in. I'm freaking out man. The bridge is the best though. There's background vox and it sounds so trite in the context of the rest of the song but really if you pick up some headphones you'll hear that the harmonizing background vox are really interesting as is the rest of
the music. The tone is superb too. Dayamn.
This song is very 5ish. The song has that segmented, almost dancy feel that can be achieved with a lot of stuff in 5. It's sort of a weird song for how catchy it is. I mean on other songs you'll really hear the tritones but here there are oddtime everything but you'll find yourself pumping along all the same. The best part is when the guy sings "la la la la laa laa." You know how it's impossible to unsee www.tubg
irl.com? Well this line is so catchy its impossible to unhear it. The rest of the song has a few moments like this. Crap, I'm forgetting to mention how many key changes there have been. They act the way key changes do in movies. The score is written with changes from major to minor when all of a sudden, danger is near but here, it's used not as much to pull a 180 but to put a pall over a continuing theme. It's really cool to hear this little subtleties.
Work Lies Sex Love Fear Hate Friendship
Sort of annoying as far as GAD songs go. It sounds the most marketable and has the least coolness in terms of guitar interplay and changes until about 1:07 where this awesome stacatoo guitar comes in and then the secondary vocals have a really emotive line and then the song spills out into a pleasant ambient section full of rolling bass lines and echoing guitars. Bring on the funk.
A Manifesto of Tangible Wealth
This song is straightforward in the way that doesn't cloy like the first part of the previous song. There's just compressed vocals and a cool synth thing happening. It goes on for about a minute and then everything else comes in but it serves as a great mood shift. This being a concept album would get repetitious if it were for this tne change. I mean, everything is really varied but the fast it is all so varied can make everything blend together into one awesome homogeneous mess. This way the album is broken up by a simple but nonetheless intriguing and good song. It's like the much needed breather before the CD spins out of control during the middle sections.
Snicker at the Swine
This song starts innocuously enough but this freaks you wild with some odd guitar riffing. Imagine a little No Knife but with some maj 7 intervals and it's really heavy and driving, which sounds odd for a pop punk song with catchy vocals. The song has some cool moments despite the weirdness in the beginning. Everything pulls together for a moment in time but that energy remains. The weirdest part is here in the middle where there is a breakdown that would fit into any hardcore song if it weren't for the fact that they're using jangly jazz chords (dominant 7th chords) instead of open palm muted chugging ones. Oh it doesn't get more perplexing than the harmonizations on this song.
This song is delightfully ominous. It all starts incredibly tritoney and minor key ish but then it breaks down into really pretty parts with some hot wailing guitar lines that break into the calm reggae like part. There's major-minor chord lines and the swirling, rolling bass to fit. Lots of pretty falsetto too. It's a little beautiful breather before the song picks up again. The coolest part of the pickup is how the guitar ends up panning from left to right. Even though they're high pitched ska chords, they are thrown back and forth quickly enough to make them sound urgent and intense. The vocals line there is so emotive too that it really gets me good. Awesome.
Cut the Strings
The intro reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," which would be terrible if it weren't for GAD's making the time in 5 and then later elaborating on this dorky theme by adding some more angular guitar and segmenting the inital arpeggiation. Also, this song has been made into this mass of cool locrian pop punk stuff, which sounds great. The fact that it remains catchy despite it's dissonances is awesome. Then there's the little out of place chromatic descent a la Maudlin of the Well. Oddly jazzy and nicely transitioning into the more straightforward rock and roll next part. Then everything goes back into pretty punk with some sexiness in the dynamics. They have more of those compressed vocals that sound so cool when the secondary singer chimes in in the background.
The Horse You Rode in On
This song makes me sleepy and reminds me of a mix of Marle's Theme from Chrono Trigger and some showtunes song. It has this ascending chromatic thing found in musicals often. It sounds weird at first but then the song gets very wistful and beautiful and varies the CD in the same way that "Manifesto of Tangible Wealth" did. It's a little pretty sleeper to isolate the three past songs, which should have thoroughly melted your face.
Recondition, Reprogram, Reactivate
It reminds me of some happy Pulley song in the beginning but that don't last for long. There is a long standing them of triads on this song that is especially present in the middle section. There's some funked out falsetto singing and high pitched echoey and delayed guitar hiding underneath the major, minor, and dimished triads that just plod on for a long time. Cool thinking GAD! The song comes right back for some hot pop punk action only to break it down again with this cool pull off guitar contrasted with the pop punk parts that gives the song a big metal feel. I love how GAD pulls metal sensibilities from parts so egregiously catchy the MTV could market it next to Story of the Year. It's all sort of weird actually.
To me, Animal Farm
always had a depressing anti-climactic ending. At first I felt that they'd end on the same weird note that had been sustained in the book and in the previous parts of the album and for a while it just kept on going that way with little flares of an epic, closing feel. Then I started to sense it around the time I heard a wall of sound and and reversed cymbal crash. It was all building. There will little standard let downs on weird tritones things but in general the song built towards a definite ending. And then as beautifully and compellingly as it started, it ambiently and slowly fizzles out and ends. We rock on out straight on a post-hardcore arpeggiated thing with cool drum accents in the background and everchanging bass lines. There's a somber guitar solo that really complements the sad finale. Bring it in! Yes!
So ya this album rocks and nobody will ever really digest it. I hope you all enjoy it. Sometimes it gets too weird for its own good but that only merits more listens to try to figure out what was going on. I love it so hard.