The Dismemberment Plan
Uncanney Valley


3.2
good

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
October 9th, 2013 | 61 replies


Release Date: 10/15/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When I say 'what the,' you say 'hell.' What the!

In a stunning display of how to alienate fans and obliterate expectations, Travis Morrison kicks off Uncanney Valley with the lyric “Press the spacebar enough, coCAINE comes out! I really LIKE this computer!” From there, the facepalms never let up, as Morrison dad-jokes his way through the first album in twelve years from seminal white nerds The Dismemberment Plan. This might be a tough pill to swallow for old fans; both Emergency and I (1999) and Change (2001) nailed early-twenties ennui in such an insightful, poetic way that hearing the couplet “I am not an inhibited man!/ try to keep it in my pants when I can!” from the same band is a heartfuck of Raditude proportions. It may be unfair to hold new material from a band against its masterpieces past, but Emergency and I and Change are to Uncanney Valley what On the Road and Dharma Bums would be to a Kerouac book of knock-knock jokes. Though the work may not necessarily be bad in and of itself, the dramatic shift in tone and immense simplification of form would be jarring enough to prompt bewilderment before anything else, and with proof of life-changing mastery looming so conspicuously in hindsight, it had better have some fucking hilarious knock-knock jokes.

The lyrics of Uncanney Valley are stretched metaphors and tenuous rhymes delivered with ham-fisted obviousness, like terrible puns from a guy who self identifies as “goofy” and punctuates each joke he thinks of with a loud “he-hey!” The lyric from “No One’s Saying Nothing” quoted above is but one of the track’s almost-exclusively jaw-dropping lines, others being “I’m just a fat man on druUugs, drowning in huUugs” and “Sit out on the porch, it’s nicer than you thiIink/have yourself a coffee, have yourself a thiIink.” Morrison doesn’t get too much better from there, as nearly every track features at least one line worth burying your head in your hands over, including “Thought I’d end up in midtown a winner/now I’m bitin’ my nails and I’m callin it dinner” from “Invisible” and every single word of “White Collar White Trash.” These are-you-fucking-serious couplets create a bizarre effect; they’re sung so consistently and with such unabashed enthusiasm that the cringes they induce begin to feel like the intended effect of the album, though to what end they’re supposed to lead to is tricky to decipher.

It’s as if there’s a joke surrounding Uncanney Valley, but who’s telling it isn’t entirely clear. Is Morrison taking the piss, and if so, out of what? He said in his Pitchfork interview that on Emergency and I and Change, the boys in the Dismemberment Plan sounded like “very nervous young men.” Uncanney Valley is anything but nervous sounding, all free-wheeling and comfortable, and in fact seems to needle the very self-serious nervousness that permeates the type of narrators that populated songs like “A Life of Possibilities” and “Ellen and Ben.” Those folks were nervous loners who looked at togetherness and inclusivity with an air of distrust and self-loathing. The protagonists of Uncanney Valley are middle-aged buds having a transparently good time spewing some silly lyrics and grooving hard over hot bass lines and syncopated drum patterns. Who’s to say which perspective is the wiser?

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest the latter. Not in the lyrics, lord knows, but in the spirit of the thing. Uncanney Valley truly doesn’t suck, despite its best efforts to come off like it does to a certain sensibility. “Waiting” has already proved a polarizing single derided for its syllable-smushing and narrative of a guy giving a mild fuck-you to an ex fling, but it is super-catchy and fun to listen to, if a bit twee. Same with much of Uncanney Valley; replace the guitar leads with piano licks and it’s not too far off from a good Ben Folds record. There’ve been whispers that it’s musically bland compared to the Plan’s previous work, and while it’s true that it takes less work to wrap your ear around Valley, “bland” isn’t the right word for what amounts to a band giving in to its considerable ear for pop songwriting. This is verse-chorus-verse as pleasantly intuitive as it comes, thematically light yet with enough room for the musicians to show their considerable skill. This is a band channeling its talent into pure positive vibes, while also creating a sense that those who don’t go with them are the ones with the problem.

One walks away from Uncanney Valley with a hefty chunk of it lodged in the brain, to be revisited as “that song begrudgingly stuck in your head” for weeks to come. Morrison’s “I can be the (something) you can be the (something else)” series of lines in “Let’s Just Go to the Dogs Tonight” might be terrible on paper but either their naïve simplicity or sing-song-y delivery make them difficult to deny eventually. This is the most aggravating thing about Uncanney Valley: it’s an album worth loving in spite of itself. The band didn’t even attempt to acknowledge their legacy and it’s arguable that they worked aggressively to pull the rug out from underneath it, and yet the music is still kind of really good. It’s catchy and stupid and fun and terrible and proud of being all those things. This is a record with no aspirations to poetry or wallowing. It wants only to get the crowd involved, even going so far as to include its very own fucking ridiculous chant of “When I say what the, you say hell! What the! HELL! What the! HELL!” that will either play really well or really awkwardly live, depending on who shows up. Those who’d disown Uncanney Valley for its signal that The Dismemberment Plan have gone to the dogs would make the moment uncomfortable, but those with them for the good vibes they want to create, warts and all (and oh my god, the warts!), could have a lot of fun connecting to a band that seems to have stopped doing sadness. Which show would you rather be at?



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user ratings (61)
Chart.
2.8
good
other reviews of this album
JamieCTA (3.5)
It’s far from perfect but it’s fun....

Point1 (2)
If they do care, oh, they're not letting it show....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Point1
October 9th 2013


197 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

I like this way of thinking about the album, even though I obviously disagree. Great review, loved the lyrics paragraph.

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


10414 Comments


i was always under the impression that Make Believe was a far larger clusterfuck than Raditude

Digging: Literature - Chorus

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


15737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

when i say cluster, you say fuck. cluster!

Digging: Ricky Eat Acid - Three Love Songs

Calc
October 9th 2013


12185 Comments


Shit!

fuck....

Digging: Jizue - Shiori

plane
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


6094 Comments


i dedicate this review to myself

minnashine
October 9th 2013


190 Comments


really not interested in listening to this

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


10414 Comments


fuck!!11

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
October 9th 2013


7026 Comments


nailed it. fun record.

Digging: Perfume Genius - Too Bright

Monsieur
October 9th 2013


78 Comments


Called it. I knew that if Dismemberment Plan went on for too long, Morrison would get tied up in his own goofy lyrics and try to capitalize on the obscurity.

You missed the chance to summarize this as "Arrested Development Season 4." (Don't pounce, I love both the show and this band. Just an observation)

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


15737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

lewis can you change your avatar to snoopy because

sniper
October 9th 2013


19049 Comments


nice review

demigod!
October 9th 2013


44352 Comments


hell?

Digging: Portishead - Dummy

robin
Emeritus
October 9th 2013


4248 Comments


“I am not an inhibited man!/ try to keep it in my pants when I can!”


if i don't have ssss-s-s-s-ex by the end of the week i'm gg-g-g-going to die

i stand there butt naked in front of a bunch of strangers, looking at them looking at me looking at them looking at me and i say

OH FINE MOM HOW'S WASHINGTON?

robin
Emeritus
October 9th 2013


4248 Comments


Ben Folds Rockin the Suburbs


hahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahahhaahhahahaahhahahaa


god bless this injoke forever. i love you

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


16088 Comments


Ugh I can't even dance to this

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


15035 Comments


what robin said (in his first post) tho

Winesburgohio
October 9th 2013


1030 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

shaking my money-maker to 'lets all go to the dogs tonight' as we speak

also i know it's not amazing or acute or whatever but this album is just so much fun, and as a lonely and frightened twentysomething for whom Emergency and I and Plans resonate uncomfortably well that's actually weirdly reassuring. Looking at this as a 'Where are they now' narrative is super useful i think

Digging: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane - Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

Irving
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


7270 Comments


Status reminded me of that rofl-worthy "you say Justin Bieber I say Evanescence you say Taylor Swift I say Nickelback" thing lol.

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
October 9th 2013


15737 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

album reminds me of that too

Rev
October 9th 2013


9422 Comments


downer this review is incredible


unlike the album



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