Review Summary: Though Jon Mess shines here, these four songs sound more like DGD scraps than the work of a stand-alone band.
Nearly four years after the demos were leaked, Dance Gavin Dance’s (DGD) core members have finally shared their top-secret EP, or, at least, a polished version of it.
Even though these four songs are stylistically similar to the main post-hardcore project, it’s apparent that Will Swan, Matt Mingus and Jon Mess don’t need a label, and, especially not an attention-seeking lead singer. This seems to be the music these three want to create. With their Rise Records contract finally over, Secret Band appears to be the logical, and far less dysfunctional, focus for this trio moving forward.
Still, abandoning the success of DGD is purely conjecture. As it stands, this is only a side project, and, as such, should at least be somewhat overtly distinguishable from the main focus. Unfortunately, these songs sound more like rejected DGD cuts rather than an EP meant to stand on its own.
Given that the inception of these four songs coincided with those on Downtown Battle Mountain II, one would be hard pressed not to notice at least some similarities between the two- and these go beyond Swan’s unwillingness to deviate from his usual scales, and even Mingus’ overuse of double bass. The outro of “Breakfast Time” is nearly identical to the verse of “Pounce Bounce.” And the same is true of the beginnings for “An Advertisement” and “Swan Soup.” Both exhibits Swan’s trademark noodling, but are nearly indistinguishable from one another.
The similarities are also apparent in Jon Mess’ vocals. He opts for the same style and delivery of the past two full-lengths even though the self-titled album saw the most experimentation. Discernability should not be a qualm here; rather, Mess’ situation is similar to that of Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain; without a lead singer, it is imperative that Mess uses everything in his creative arsenal to be as dynamic as possible.
To be sure, Mess’ lyrics are a definite bright spot here. Though many of his lines seem nonsensical, Mess clearly alludes to some sort of crisis with God. The song “Devil’s Gospel” offers these lines:
I said goodbye to the lord today I
Kissed its cheek, took my lunch and walked away
I don’t care about being alone
This last line becomes a lyrical refrain throughout the song. The three remaining tracks add more to this theme, along with numerous references to Cannabis and sex. It’s doubtful that even Mess knows what his lyrics mean. “An Advertisement” does give offer this lyrical nugget:
I speak voodoo prose
-the perfect summation of his poetry.
While Jon Mess fans will surely enjoy this remastered EP, there is little for the casual listener to appreciate that hasn’t already appeared on a DGD record. More experimentation in style and song length (no track stretches past the 3:30 mark) is necessary if this project is ever going to be more than just an outlet for rejected DGD songs.