Review Summary: Trying to stay afloat in an ever crowded pool.
I will be honest from the front that I have never been much of a fan of Jonny Craig's contributions to Dance Gavin Dance as a whole -- well, besides his miraculously god-given talents at digging himself into massive public relations fiascoes. I have always leaned more towards the short but oh-so-sweet Kurt Travis era, with Happiness
being the crux of Dance Gavin Dance's messy and convoluted career. Acceptance Speech
sees Tilian Pearson now at the helm of the Sacramento based post-hardcore act's softer side. It's a move that is both confusing and fitting as while Craig and Travis used the standard falsetto that has graced the genre for the last decade and a half, they had a distinctive personality to them that was in its own way as much of a calling card of the band's sound as Jon Mess' bullshi
t and nonsensical lyrics, Will Swan's melodic noodling, and Matt Mingus' playful expression behind the drumkit. Tilian's vocals lack that. While there is no doubt that he has pipes, his singing lies somewhere in between Hail the Sun's Donovan Melero and Circa Survive's Anthony Green, and his melodies are follow in that same route, lacking the more angular approach of those who have come before him.
That's not to say that the rest of the band fall into that same trap of patent pending banality. Tilian aside, Acceptance Speech
is still very much a Dance Gavin Dance record. The duo of Will Swan and Josh Benton put their guitar acrobatics to work once again and prove why they have always been the sole reason behind Dance Gavin Dance's popularity, Jonny Craig lovers be damned. Their fretboard histrionics continue in advancing the road map that The Fall of Troy laid out for them years earlier, combining hammer-ons and aggressive arpeggios with a funky swagger that is instantly recognizable and at the same time consistently stolen and beat into the ground by many of the bands who Dance Gavin Dance have chosen as tourmates over the last couple years. Jon Mess is still as vital and at the same time irritating as ever. Vocally he is spot on. His screams have continued to grow in strength and tone, especially over the last few years of the band's career, and on Acceptance Speech
he continues to progress. His vocal pattens too have become more playful, as he now comfortably intertwines with Swan and Benton's off kilter bents instead of shouting at a wall and hoping it sticks. That being said, the man's lyrics seem to become more painfully brain dead and atrocious with each new recording. One could try to make the argument that it's more about the pacing and patterns than the actual content, but at the end of the day Mess' lyrical prowess is so far beyond hit or miss that it is just absurd.
So why the low rating? Well, it's that parity I mentioned earlier. When Dance Gavin Dance burst on to the scene with Downtown Battle Mountain
they occupied a nice little niche in the post-hardcore scene of bands raised on equal parts Glassjaw and At the Drive-In but with learned pop sensibilities that neither of those two huge influences ever let stray in to their sound. By the time they followed that up with Happiness
bands like The Fall of Troy were in their final throes and Chiodos were far past their point of relevancy, and they were the last man standing on the technical post-hardcore mountain top. This made Dance Gavin Dance the go to band to pillage ideas from for an entire generation of upcoming scene-core bands. With Dance Gavin Dance doing what they always have for all these years, what was once fresh and exciting is now common place. Any stand out musical moment on Acceptance Speech
could also be found on the new Stolas record, the new Hail the Sun record, or even on anything from new vocalist Tilian Pearson's old band Tides of Man. Even the less serious moments like the rapping outro to the title track is a joke already tackled better on Downtown Battle Mountain 2
's “Spooks”. It's not that anything on the record is bad per-se -- to be honest that all depends on your opinion of Tilian's clean vocals as I do find them to be a bit of a detraction -- but for the first time Dance Gavin Dance sound as if they are stuck in sea of homogeneity, and that can be just as damaging.