One would have every reason to believe Dance Gavin Dance has always been, and will continue to be, the same group that released Downtown Battle Mountain
only six years ago. Although there have been a few stylistic changes in the group's general playbook-- whether it be catchy melodies with Happiness
, Jon Mess's harsh vocals reaching near-aneurystic levels on Dance Gavin Dance
, or DBM2
being one solid piece of wankery-- the band's gameplan has remained fairly predictable. And that's OK, too. We spastic-post-hardcore fans don't particularly need our favorites to reinvent the wheel. This is why groups like Dance Gavin Dance are so easy to like, because they're reliable. If you liked the feel of these guys' previous records, Acceptance Speech
should follow suit, because it's packed to the brim with much of the same from DGD: sturdy songwriting, silly lyrics and instrumental acrobatics.
And if you don't care for the record, well, it would be understandable. After all, Dance Gavin Dance's fanbase has always been irretrievably interested in who's fronting the band, and whether or not said frontman is a good fit, etc. Given this, Acceptance Speech
is easy to rag on because of the rather flat performance of its new lead singer, Tillian Pearson. However, I urge many of the vocalist's detractors to go and give a spin to Tides of Man's most recent album, so that they can hear what he's capable of sounding like. He does a fantastic job on Dreamhouse
, existing as the album's guiding light in an otherwise homogeneous landscape. On Acceptance Speech
, Pearson offers his insistent highly-pitched vocals as counterpart to the rather frantic nature of the album. And while the dichotomy works, it also grows a little tiring. But is it fair for us to place this blame exclusively on his shoulders?
While we can curse Pearson as much as we'd like for the fact that DGD's music sounds crafted exclusively for the man's falsetto croons, let's consider who's behind the helm of Dance Gavin Dance's production duties this time around-- or, rather, who isn't
. Widely esteemed producer Kris Crummett, the man behind the lucid mixes of the rest of DGD's discography (and, shockingly enough, Pearson himself on Dreamhouse
, is mysteriously absent this time, only providing the final mix to Acceptance Speech
. In the production seat instead, curiously enough, is Matt Malpass, the man behind softer acts like Cute Is What We Aim For, Lydia and The Ready Set. The guy's forte is with pop hooks, so should we really be surprised that upon producing this album, he would emphasize Pearson's soaring vocals above the rest of the band?
For what it's worth, Pearson does a great job with the cards he's given on Acceptance Speech
. Tunes like “Jesus H. Macy” and “Strawberry Swisher Pt. 3” have no problems finding their way into the band’s “best of” catalogue, and it has everything to do with Pearson’s commanding performance. He soars in a way none of Dance Gavin Dance’s previous vocalists could-- that falsetto
, man. It fits the songs at hand perfectly, and reminds me that Pearson was a great choice to front DGD. At the same time, though, let’s give the other guys credit. Harsh vocalist Jon Mess sounds fiercer than he ever has, guitarist Will Swan provides killer licks on the frets, once again, and Tim Feerick and Matt Mingus, bassist and drummer respectively, provide reliant-as-ever backbone for the rest of the musicians to work against. When the album gets heavier, it becomes apparent that Malpass is less comfortable in his zone of production, as Swan and Feerick get lost in the mix entirely -- just listen to that heavy-ass section of “The Jiggler” -- but when things are poppier, the group sounds great as always as a cohesive unit.
There are many things going on with Acceptance Speech
. While it has its drawbacks in terms of production, Dance Gavin Dance sounds positively rejuvenated here. Despite all the controversies that have surrounded the group since its inception, regardless of the numerous line-up changes, and forgetting all the “Pt. 3”-and-“Pt. 4”-infested song titles on Acceptance Speech
, the record manages to sound like a group that just got together. While every reason exists to denounce Dance Gavin Dance as a one-trick pony, I can’t help but appreciate the song and dance with which the band has always provided me.