Review Summary: Travis Morrison should play the lottery if he's such a know-it-all.
I don’t like for things to be uncanny, but then again there is something uncanny about the way Change
walks which both baffles and contents me. It's an album abundantly removed from the isolating, apocalyptic themes of their Indie masterpiece Emergency & I
but somehow creeping and crawling with the same paranoid feelings it sends out. Okay, some of the songs have colossal scope – “Pay for the Piano” is typically high-stakes for the band and all the speedy drumming and grungy guitars could easily call for political reforms (“Somebody’s got to pay for the piano/Somebody’s got to make sure we honor everyone
” ) – but this isn’t end of the world stuff. So why exactly does every song on Change
make me anxious that Travis Morrison is coming to town?
Such a question isn’t really answered in the absolutes its predecessor was because in 2001, The Dismemberment Plan isn’t really driving towards a specific and devastating ending, let alone a revolution. Even if “Pay for the Piano” is eerie and universal, the band lets that very same tone loose for the remainder of ten songs, no matter how diverse they are for subject matter. “Come Home” takes the album’s mood and makes a loner of Morrison, recycling what spoke to our generation just a song ago and instead putting listeners through the frontman’s dearth of personal experience. On the face of it, he’s relatable, but in actual fact the only person that matters in this moment is Morrison and Morrison alone: “Made myself some coffee and listened to the rain rattle the leaves/I told myself nothing is wrong and stared through the paper for a long long time
”. And enough cannot be said of how stricken with paranoia he is – the song explodes from its sparse dynamic into something explosive and jittery with much credit to Joe Easley’s drumming prowess – his fragmented smattering of percussion can only say as much as Morrison does himself though, which is quite simply “I don’t know
”. Two songs into the future and the Plan have reinvented their own wheel again, but even as the band twist and turn heads with “Automatic” – which is as good as an acoustic lullaby, especially for a band this proud and prone to freak outs – they still can’t calculate anything but the cold and nerve-wracking, and Morrison’s lyrical outlook oozes bleakness; where verses stand in this man’s way, he will simply overflow with words.
Enough can be said of that restraining and dark album mood, though, because this album lives and dies by its absolutely gorgeous instrumentation. And there is definitely no schedule to this aspect of the album – Change
defines sporadic, and in the best way possible too. “The Other Side”, for a best example, has no structure to speak of and sounds the sums of its parts in some unexplainable and excellent way – the drums sound sliced out of the song and then in again, the guitars have no place that isn’t for their own sake and Morrison’s vocals sound as if they’re going a’capella when they aren’t – as if that isn’t enough, it actually all fits perfectly. Nearly every song does its best to meander into known and unknown territory in the same stroke, with “Superpowers”, “The Face of The Earth” the most obvious (from their synth foundations to their guitar rock implosions), and “Ellen and Ben” the grooviest, laying down the most monotonous tale possible with glitchy and geeky musical interplay not shy of the experimental storytelling The Velvet Underground would go in for – a modern “The Gift”, minus the majority of its creepy aftertaste.
So basically, Change
is a lot of change happening both within the band and out of it - and no, Travis Morrison isn’t best pleased.