Review Summary: I lost my membership card to the human race.Emergency & I
is a testament to how easily I will assume an album is about the apocalypse. It surely is only invested in this storyline once on “8 ½ Minutes” where Travis Morrison actually decides to set some missiles off, “hoping if it’d kick-start something
”. The implication isn’t of the carnage or the suffering or the gore, though, it’s of the human interaction that goes on before the bomb goes off. And this happens ten songs into the album, so am I to assume that Travis Morrison’s world is going steady for the album’s 35 initial minutes?
Still, it’s hard to shake this idea of apocalypse from my head because Emergency & I
sounds so deceptively made out of rubble. These surreal hints of the end of the world are born from how barren the Plan sound musically, with “The Jitters” taking a dark guitar tone and having it rise above the scattered ambience around it in search of something less alien. And when there is some substance, it can’t make any sense of itself: “I Love a Magician” is like a chaotic second glance at this nothingness and struggles to identify anything at all - the band’s guitarist and drummer simply freak out, and whatever way the wind is blowing, simultaneous mental breakdowns are in order.
So originally I thought Emergency & I
was about this apocalypse, but it doesn’t carry that scope on its shoulders. It’s about isolation, and Morrison’s lyrics map himself in landscapes of little else. On “The Jitters”, he offers vague responses and explanations to problems that, while never revealed, sound all the more genuine for being the only thing in geographical existence: “Nothing’s wrong/I’m just fine/I’ve realised I just don’t like jokes
”. As vague as he is, what’s incredible about his words is how he is saying such distinct things about himself without making his experience anything more than a myth. We never learn more of the protagonist than what bubbles on the surface – we sympathise with his psychopathic sexual struggles on “Girl O’ Clock”, we watch him shut everyone out on “A Life of Possibilities” and we get taken through “The City”, his tale of missing someone, whoever, and damned if “The city’s been dead/since you’ve been gone
” is a cliché because its sincerity reigns supreme.
Morrison knows that more is less and that going deep is speaking of nothing more than the outcome. On “A Life of Possibilities” he marks an unhealthy descent and provides a cutting analysis for himself or his character, presented it in unconditional terms - “You’re gone cause they can’t find you/You’re lost cause they don’t know the way/They’re angry, they’re sorry, they worry/You don’t care
”. He empties his words of sentiment on every song and states events as brute facts on their course, such as Gyroscopes revelation that “Happiness is such hard work/harder every day, and it can kill you
”. That’s how Morrison universalises a feeling – by emptying it of what it was made of.
So unlike other doom ‘n’ gloom records, this piece of music isn’t political or absolute and it surely isn’t
the end of the world. It’s not a warning from musical time travellers (Godspeed You! Black Emperor are known for this superpower) and Morrison’s band aren’t just popping by to pass on the message that we’re all going to die. If they are, they shouldn’t have told us the way they did, because Emergency & I
doesn’t use fear tactics to pass on its pessimism, it jams in it. “You are Invited”, the album’s synthesiser centrepiece, is climactic and intensified until it prematurely explodes into a chorus we never get again - or at least, not in the same way. The band lose it here for a good ten seconds, sacrificing their why-oh-why musings to the way of the amplifier and offering a healthy dose of self-determinism (“You are invited/by anyone to do anything
”). Similarly, the band acts quirkily and crudely and end up trivialising their frustrations; “Girl O’ Clock” indulges perversion and desensitises it by making an irresistible sing along of it, Morrison’s stuttering vocals (“If I don’t have s-s-s-s-s-ex by the end of the week I’m g-g-g-going to die
”) hammering home his lust as if out of a horror flick that could leave a psychological mark or serve as a parody to itself. In other words, it’ll haunt you unless you dance to it.
Emergency & I
closes off on “Back and Forth” in which the band surges hopelessly towards an end, but never seeks to reach it. The Dismemberment Plan instead sound as if they are going to extend forever and they burst only reluctantly at their last gasp. And this song follows the record’s suit perfectly – it’s catchy, it’s funky and it’s seamless. These last guitar lines send us one obvious message – while hanging around in a wasteland, be prepared for a lesson in groove. Travis Morrison may be feeling a little down, but it’s not the end of the world.