Review Summary: A strong, energetic debut with Craig as frontman. But it's not earth shatteringly original and a bit confused at times. But great fun all the same. Dance Gavin Dance anyone?
When Jonny Craig was dismissed from Dance Gavin Dance in December 2007, me and many other DGD fans around the world sighed a sigh of sadness. As we knew only too well the likelihood of both Jonny and the boys dissolving back into the underground to record and produce bizarre genre straddling nightmares. Very fortunately for us all, both parties have hit the ground running (albeit Dance Gavin Dance's latest offering "that bears no title" is slightly more off the beaten track but that's another review for another day.) It seems the boys from Lexington KY have surpassed their Californian brothers this time around and have claimed the title of most exciting band on Rise records as their own. This, I admit is not difficult to achieve as Rise is usually the home of the most generic and dull hardcore.
The record does what all good albums should, it smacks you in the face when you press play. Craig's impeccable grunt of "tailored sheets to fix this dirty bed" tells you that this album is not going to focus on sunshine and lollipops. But what good rock and roll really does" Throughout, Craig takes us on a journey of spite, malice, revenge and envy. A lot of which conjures up images of the turmoil he must have gone through whilst his old band became more and more upset with his behavior. "You loved it when my heart dropped. you paused, stopped and walked away" to me speaks volumes about a band no longer able to tolerate him. The languid, witty introspection is accentuated by Kris Crummett's epic production. Broad, bright and punchy guitars and drums really give the record a great deal of energy despite sounding slightly confused at times. It also serves to really complement Craig. It gives the effect of a battle from Lord of The Rings taking place in CBGB's, with instruments getting in the way.
There are no real let downs on the whole record. If I had to choose one I would say "Sailing In The Dark Isn't Smart Kid!" is a touch laboured but other than that the album gels as one piece of work but tracks also stand out. "Heads Or Tails" Real or Not"" is an upbeat treasure. One criticism I would make is they have a tendency to really find something amazing and then get apprehensive and drop it without following it through. This has lead me to only listen to thirty seconds of some tracks before moving on. The last forty seconds of "Pretend. Release. The Close" is one of those flashes of brilliance. Also, although the production is overall very solid, They is very little bass or keyboard to be heard. But I suppose that's a sacrifice the band makes to accentuate the guitar. It's also very apparent that the producer Crummett also worked on "Downtown Battle Mountain", Dance Gavin Dance's first offering. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I cannot decide.
This album is an example of what a tight, competent band can do with a good producer and a frankly outstanding vocalist, who is, in my opinion just reaching the peak of his game.It is also a good bridge builder. I have friends who know very little about the genre but really enjoy this album and Jonny Craig in general. Because if we are honest, he wouldn't be out of place doing a duet with Christina Aguilera.
But don't get me wrong this isn't by any means the new black. This is not a groundbreaking record and Craig needs to really push himself to create something truly brilliant that will make the mainstream sit up and take notice. It may not be a seminal work or a breakthrough, but it's a whole lotta fun!