Review Summary: The Dismemberment Plan doesn't get rich.
Unlike the welcome ‘maturity’ of their later hours, The Dismemberment Plan’s debut doesn’t feel the need to show us the calm before the storm. It probably served to act as the definition of an exclamation mark from its off, although I don't want to pin down concept on an album that sounds so born out of a punk’s improvisational skills. If anyone has bragging rights to this form of punctuation, though, it’s Travis Morrison.
For that, 1995’s !
stands for something: it sparks itself into existence on “Survey Says” and its abrasive use of everything, be it the sharp guitars or Morrison’s sheer lack of compromise when it comes to singing properly. The song’s motif seems to be punk too, with our said maniac’s lyrics mainly being assertions of “Engine is running”
. What follows is a moment typical of this Washington outfit as melody floods into the song’s chorus, and that uncanny melody truly is its creator’s creation. Even if !
sounds rough and ragged, fans know they’re amongst friends.
Though most will be happily familiar with the chaos that Joe Easley brought to the band’s drum kit from 1997 onwards, !
makes it obvious that predecessor Steve Cummings doesn’t let up either. The drumming is just as dramatic and dangerous as it made the band on their mini-classics Emergency & I
, but his style is more a mix of pain than pleasure; he thrashes on and on through the album’s forty minutes, only letting us off the hook on “I’m Going To Buy You A Gun”, the closest thing the Dismemberment Plan get to ‘quiet contemplation’ these early days. It’s likely Cummings is responsible for that dubious post-hardcore tag the band landed itself with and while his ruthless and rather repetitious drumming works when it dominates tracks such as “The Small Stuff” or “13 And Euclid” - which are perfectly accounted for by their sleazy guitar lines or aggressive gang vocals, it doesn’t lend !
any space or variety. It’s honestly a relief how “I’m Going To Buy You A Gun” splits the album in two, even if this humblest of D-Plan tunes still puts the drums loudest and proudest in the mix. Fair is fair: Steve Cummings helped found this band, and his overbearing percussion leaves a monumental mark on its debut, for better or ill.
Other than that, this Dismemberment Plan record survives on spirit, and for that it’s a hell of a blueprint. Travis Morrison’s voice is at its nastiest here, complementing the insanity that surrounds him, and in ways it’s more diversified than his other colleagues: he’s already got his lazier side down to a tee, as shown by “I’m Going To Buy You A Gun” where it fits and again in that other way where it doesn’t fit – just as he can sound half-asleep on a song as apocalyptic as “Memory Machine”, he often sounds just about ready to nod off on his band’s punk rock record on “Soon To Be an Ex-Quaker” or the otherwise threatening “Fantastic”. He can be crazy too, and !
is recognisable as one of the early Dismemberment Plan records in that it shows its frontman’s insanity up just as The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified
continued to, be it his out of time shouts of “123 Go!
” or his snarled words on “The Things That Matter” where he couldn’t be imagined without his tongue out. That's probably the sound this record of exclamation was meant for, and whether Morrison is too lazy to get on with it or not, it’s certainly required listening for any fan who wants to know just how far their Dismemberment Plan has come. The answer is far enough.