Review Summary: Dance Gavin Dance takes one step backwards and two steps foward... = One Step Foward :DD
ance Gavin Dance is a band that I’ve caught the train on late. I remember 2 summers ago now seeing them play with LoveHateHero in a small club on Long Island and not even knowing who they were. They were late to the venue by 45 minutes but it was worth the wait to see the twin vocalist duo of Jonny Craig and Jonathan Mess who made everyone who waited worth the while. It made me intrigued by the band which in a live setting sounded a lot like The Blood Brothers
(except with a real singer). I picked up Downtown Battle Mountain and was automatically hooked by the creative and thoughtful fusions behind the instrumentals and the phenomenal clean singing by Jonny Craig. If you’ve never been blessed to hear the singing think of an R&B style singer in this progressive, post hard-core genre. Now keeping the same formula two years later Jonny Craig was kicked out of the band and in comes Kurt Travis from 5 minute ride. As I don’t think anyone can fill in the shoes of Jonny Craig and ultimately having somewhat of a man crush on him- I do believe that Kurt Travis proves himself during this album. Don’t jump the gun now because the entire band itself has progressed wonderfully. Returning fans of DGD are going to be right at home with this release as the songs ultimately follow the identical formations and really shows off what the band has already done best.
Dance Gavin Dance
If you don’t know Dance Gavin Dance theirs a really simple way of envisioning the music. The vocalists are two guys telling the same story except one is really angry and expresses it in a loud way and the other guy is really sensitive and understanding and sings with a melody. I can’t take credit for this analogy but when someone said that the guitar work sounds like two squirrels frantically fighting
, I feel that seems about right. The bass lines are what really do me in (being that I am a bass player) I loved how the bass was always active and moving in Downtown Battle Mountain. The first song “Alex English” has been available to sample via myspace for quite a few months now. The song comes in slowly with a solo guitar riff that counter parts with a lead riff. Old fans will remember instantly with the screaming which sounds… well- exactly the same as the last album and the album before that. The verses come in heavy and hitting with the band at full force while Jonathan Mess puts out his signature screams. Kurt Travis the new player to the party comes in shortly after and does his best to serenade the same way Jonny Craig would. His vocals have a more passive sound to them when he’s alone in the mix but he’s still holds his own. The song spirals out into interesting mixes of tempo changes with emotions sputtering everywhere. By 3:15 the interlude comes in softly and the first time Kurt Travis has his chance to make his mark. His vocals are soft and just as emotional (if not more) then the man he had to replace. The vocal layering by 3:48 really takes a toll on the listener and for people who believed the band couldn’t continue without their beloved singer.
“Buffalo” starts off with drums only and then the guitars go frantic with a Fall Of Troy like rhythm. When the vocals begin the song gives me off a vibe of the Blood Brothers which is not something I enjoy. With the “No No No’s” that I could of really done without. I feel like this band has always been decent lyrically and to follow suit with this album I felt let down. For one thing there is way too much cursing within the lyrics which really turns me off from any band. I just feel like it makes the lyrics and music in it’s own sound immature but that’s hardly what I’d call the instrumentals. The guitars are right on par with a greater range of effects and the bass lines still groove. Also what really gives me the thumbs down to the “Buffalo” track is it ends repeating the same word looped for a good 15 seconds. Yikes. “Me and Zoloft Get Along Just Fine” returns back to stride for DGD. The song follows up to most of the good elements that were in the introduction track “Alex English”. The screaming runs rampant on the song and the guitars and drums back it well. The singing sounds as polished as it did on the first track making me wonder how “Buffalo” ever made it to the final product. The time changes will keep the listener on it’s toes and the guitars make a whirlwind of sounds throughout the song. The double bass pumps right in your face and puts an emphasis right under the vocals. The song winds down in the end slowing down and giving Kurt Travis another chance to solo. This time around though I am not as blown away and would of rather had Jonny Craig in for it.
“The Robot with Human Hair Pt.3” is one of the strongest tracks off of the album. The way the song is laid out puts everyone in a high position to succeed. Kurt Travis was in his element during this song and couldn’t of done a better job laying down a wide range of melodies and even getting edgy at times. The bass has a turn to lead in front of the guitars with it’s little solos and variations that make their sound so concrete. The song becomes bipolar with it’s selection of heavy and softer moments. The build ups will always leave the listener not wanting the song to end and in the end doesn’t disappoint. “Hot Water On Wool” starts off with a subtle tremolo guitar. The track spans two parts and really feels like one of the more experimental successes of the album. A whole minute flies by with the band in a full jam session which is something I really wanted to hear for a long time since I love their setup a lot. Kurt Travis takes the reigns with Jonathan Mess taking a back seat to the song. The song is the answer for people who don’t enjoy Jonathan Messes screams too often since Kurt Travis is the obvious leader of the song. At times it feels like a cross between At The Drive In to Envy On the Coast during the midway point of the song. It’s definitely one of the more different things the band have done and I feel like the sound is a success. “Hot Water on Wool (Reprise)” transitions right into the previous track and is the second part of the jam session which right off the bat puts an immediate emphasis on the guitar. It’s got a very danceable vibe to it and still shows off all the instruments of the band. At the very least this should show the movement the band has made from Downtown Battle Mountain but also the intricacy of the addition of Kurt Travis.
“Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most” continues the evolutionary process with the band as they seemed to have finally warmed up through the first couple of tracks. It feels like the band was almost scared to shed their roots and try anything new, so they stuck with what they knew. Now the band opens up fully with an active bass line and drums to accompany it. The melodic vocals on this song are going to be a hit or miss with people and I don’t know where I lie. He starts singing fast in almost like a rap and as it sounds like something fresh, it also sounds a little weird. The song is extremely listener friendly with a lot of chants and sing a longs to bout. During the interlude the song gets a breakdown with another dropped F-bomb but overall the breakdown feels nice to do exactly that… break the song down. It was getting way too poppy for me personally and started feeling like Fall Out Boy (Ugh). “Caviar” is the song that everyone’s been waiting to hear featuring Chino Moreno of the Deftones. Chino has been quite busy lately collabing with Norma Jean and now Dance Gavin Dance. Chino’s singing in this song really saves it for me since I’m not too partial for the introduction guitar riffs but as soon as Chino gets to the microphone he throws a touchdown. Anyone who knows his work with the newer Deftones stuff will identify his sound instantly. It just sounds so lush and relaxing (I can almost see the weed coming out of the vocals booth now). The song is a grower as I love how it winds down with the vocal layering of Chino’s and the screaming in the background. Had to be a sound engineers dream, I can only imagine.
“Rock Solid” is the weirdest song I’ve probably heard so far this year.
I have no idea whether I like it or hate it because right from the intro you will have no idea what the lyrics are trying to say except “*** that ***”. I really couldn’t believe this wasn’t a Limp Bizkit song from the introduction. The song really just sounds like a cross between a schizophrenic and a guy with tourettes and at times is just whacked out. Then during the interlude a conversation between two guys randomly occurs. To be honest I cant say that I really like the song or hate it but more just intrigued by it. “Burning Down The Nicotine Armoire Pt. 2” returns to trend like “Alex English” and “Me And Zoloft Get Along Just Fine”. This time around just a tad more generic and repetitive sounding. Still with that being said, the song construction is still very well all over the place with plenty of time changes. “Reprogramming Mental Programming” is a relentless song from start to finish and really mimics a lot of Fall Of Troy and Hot Cross. Still has a danceable riff feeling ala Mars Volta with the guitars and drums. At times it’s as aggressive as I’ve ever heard the band become with the time changes and rhythm. “Skyhook” feels like a straight transition in from “Reprogramming Mental Programming”. During the final 3 songs of the album I feel like they are running into each other. Different techniques of singing are presented by Kurt Travis to further put his acceptableness in the band. “People You Know” is the last song of the album and leaves a lasting impression on the listener. For one it reminds the listener that the band was still able to go on without their “star” vocalist and that ultimately this band has grown instrumentally. The band presents all of it’s heavy moments and sensitive side. The vocals might be sincere but the excessive cursing really turns me off since this isn’t supposed to be a Slipknot or Limp Bizkit album. Although the anger of Jonathan Mess lets the listener into a new spectrum of his screaming which sounds 2x more sincere and passionate.
Me And Zolof Get Along Just Fine
As the band has been through it’s fair share of turmoil, through the wreckage comes out a quality album. As I’ve said so many times I don’t think anyone could replace Jonny Craig as much as Kurt Travis did. I wouldn’t even go as far to say replace since each vocaling style is to each and their own. The music is varied enough to keep old fans into the band and to embrace new folks who’ve never heard the band. The lyrics have to be the biggest turn off for me. It weirds me out that the lyrics have become mostly childish and immature from Jonathan Mess. Half the time the lyrics really make no sense and as I do listen for lyrics at times this really disappointed me most. The all time high of this band has to be it’s guitar work and bass work. I like how the guitars follow the path of The Fall Of Troy except with two guitars (both leading at the same time even). As I will keep listening on to Downtown Battle Mountain, I can find the new CD to be a steady new path for the band.
Dance Gavin Dance
Kurt Travis - Melodic Vocals
Jonathan Mess - Scream Vocals
Will Swan - Guitar
Zachary Garren - Guitar
Eric Lodge - Bass
Matt Mingus - Drums
Produced, recorded, mixed & mastered by Kris Crummett
Label: Rise Records