The Dismemberment Plan
The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified


3.5
great

Review

by timbo8 USER (42 Reviews)
August 2nd, 2009 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It’s not Emergency & I, but the Plan’s second album offers more than it’s share of chaotic, if less accessible, left turns.

Do you know how to do the Standing Still? Oh, it’s very easy. Really all you have to do is stand in one place as you watch the concert and… there you go! Sure you can add foot-tapping (optional) or head-bobbing (also optional), but the by-and-large motionlessness of the dance has made it a favorite among self-conscious indie concert-goers for ages.

It was in 1997 that the Dismemberment Plan so aptly codified this practice on “Do the Standing Still” from The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified. And yet, to have actually gone to a Plan show before their 2003 demise (before my time sadly), there certainly would have been some move-busting going on. Moshing, skanking, the pogo, whatever could translate the herky-jerky dance-punk the band was trailblazing at the turn of the millennium. But “a hundred million kids all dancing in suspended animation,” it was not.

And if the kids aren’t moving because of the music itself, full of sharp-edged riffs, rumbling bass, and barrages of impressive drum work, they’re knocked sideways by the left-field eccentrics that pour from Travis Morrison’s mouth. While the band hit the perfect balance of catchy hooks and erratic packaging on their breakthrough Emergency & I, its predecessor is more deeply entrenched in Morrison’s lunacy, and too much so to reach for much accessibility. Think the frenzy of “I Love a Magician” for nine or ten tracks.

Now, to call a band’s sound or lyrics “strange” or “weird” is beyond cliché, especially when you’re talking indie. So to dig deeper, Is Terrified seems to reveal a strangely relatable sense of chaos. Maybe it’s Morrison’s voice itself that keeps the album from going too far off the deep end, as it retains an everyman, charismatic quality even as it morphs from a disinterested conversational tone to punk screeches and even vocal sound effects. A more overarching factor, however, is humor. From the hilarious pop culture commentary of “Do the Standing Still” to the trippy bizarreness of “Bra”, the frenzied wallop of punchy guitar and spitting vocals still comes off with a smirk and a wink.

Is Terrified maintains an upbeat undercurrent and an engagingly sarcastic tone, but that doesn’t mean Morrison doesn’t have his grudges. “Academy Award” is a start-and-stop firebomb targeting sly backstabbers, while the slow, synth-driven “This is the Life”, which feels like an Emergency & I b-side, defends to the end the slacker life path from finger-wagging know-it-alls. The final minute of “It’s So You” goes overboard, however, as Morrison virtually abandons vocal melody to deliver a scornful, revenge-vowing rant that just amounts to him awkwardly airing his dirty laundry.

The album’s main flaw, which is particularly clear in comparison to following records, is that the band lacks patience. In packing so much guitar onslaught, vocal theatrics, and wordy lyrics into tight spaces, Is Terrified lacks a steady flow and feels too rushed to pack a maximal punch. Exceptions, and islands in the album’s sea of frantic racket, include the 12-plus-minute slow burner “Respect is Due” and “The Ice of Boston”, which remains one of The Dismemberment Plan’s best-known songs and a taste of the clever pop hooks that would populate later works. A chugging guitar rhythm leads to a winsome rock chorus, as a disaffected Morrison doesn’t so much sing as talk about his lonely, surreal New Years in Boston.

Most of all, “The Ice of Boston” paints Morrison as a guy with quirks and a degree of madness, but it’s clear that when he flies off the handlebars, as he does frequently throughout Is Terrified, it’s because of annoyances, disappointments, and frustrations that are universal. He’s just the kind of guy to make mountains out of molehills and expand life’s downfalls into his own psychotic episodes. Whether true or not, on “One Too Many Blows to the Head”, the band’s philosophy rings out: “I got everything I want by losing my mind! YEAAAHEAAAA!”



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user ratings (66)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Minus The Flair
Emeritus
August 2nd 2009


862 Comments


love this band. review was good ya. think i'm gonna review change soon.

rubybliels
September 17th 2009


67 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Think the frenzy of “I Love a Magician” for nine or ten tracks."

Sounds like the recipe for a great album.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2010


15050 Comments


ive never heard anything except 'the ice of boston' but that is a great song

robin
Emeritus
July 19th 2010


4249 Comments


album's another classic you fool

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
January 24th 2011


862 Comments


you know, after some deliberation, i think this is my favourite album. of theirs.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2011


15050 Comments


HEY

the ice of boston is muddy

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
January 24th 2011


862 Comments


all the motivation i need to write another review. i'm on a roll!

PuddlesPuddles
January 24th 2011


4784 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And I stand there, all alone on New Year's Eve
Buck naked, drenched in champagne, looking at a bunch of strangers...

timbo8
June 9th 2011


618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

...uhhh looking at them, looking at me, looking at them and I say...

TenSecondsToThink
May 10th 2012


1238 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is rated way too bad. It might be a little harder to get into, but it's the same band as in Change/ E&I and there's just as much creativity in it.

Kiran
Emeritus
November 17th 2012


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is so good

Kiran
Emeritus
December 31st 2012


6001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'the ice of boston' is the greatest new years song

TenSecondsToThink
December 31st 2012


1238 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Especially if you're going to spend this night alone. If you won't, maybe not so much. :D

TenSecondsToThink
February 22nd 2013


1238 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can someone explain to me why Respect Is Due is so amazing and anything but boring, even though it's 13 minutes long and the structure's barely changing? Cause I really don't know.

Pndi
July 17th 2013


465 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Bra" is a jam

RadioSuicide
March 2nd 2014


318 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Underrated as fuck

Digging: Sun Kil Moon - Benji

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
May 13th 2014


13339 Comments


this rules

Digging: Weezer - Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Wadlez
May 23rd 2014


4310 Comments


Took too long to jam this..

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

StallionMang
July 7th 2014


5825 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Holy fuck this is amazin

Digging: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

StallionMang
August 22nd 2014


5825 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Everyone go jam this right now



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