Review Summary: We REALLY Need to Learn Some New Tricks Pt. 4 3/7
Dance Gavin Dance. A band that has had more changes in line-ups than Arnold Schwarzenegger has in body fat. From having virtually no original members, save the lead guitarist and drummer, to having nearly the full original line-up back, this band has been through a lot. Scandals, contempt, betrayal, you name it. But has all of their hardships they've been through pay off in having them pull off the magnum opus that they've been trying to create? Let's find out.
The album begins with Jonny Craig's renowned croons, leading quickly into a screaming frenzy from Jon Mess, and it's almost immediately noticeable how much he has improved in his vocals. Whereas his screams were decent and unique before, they could have easily been compared to Nathan Lane with rabies. The album progresses and to be honest, it's extremely catchy on first listen. Like, air drum-inducing catchy. And on top of that, everything just seems so clean. Jon Mess' vocals are actually now admirable, Jonny Craig has toned down his vocals so the band doesn't seem to be pure vocal masturbation, and not to mention that Jon Mess' trademark surreal lyrics have gotten even weirder. Everything you would have loved from the previous albums are here, too; be it from Downtown Battle Mountain's beautiful vocal work, to their Deathstar self-titled's technicality, and even Happiness' funk. Yes, on going through this album a first time, it seems to be what Dance Gavin Dance was striving to make: a magnum opus.
Now let's give it a closer listen.
While the tracks are fun, they seem to have trends. They almost all start with some technical riff, to be followed by the pattern of Jon Mess frantically screaming during the up-tempo measures and Jonny Craig's descants in the melodic, poppy instrumental sections in whichever order the band would please. Will Swan seems to have lost a large amount of creativity in this album, as well. When in previous releases, he would be sure to attempt new, more experimental methods at lead guitar, he seems comfortable in using the same techniques in this album that consist of the effect pedal, using nearly the same-styled riff for every technical bar, or the same old sweep.
In terms of composition, this band also seems to simply rehash their gimmicks from similar albums, but in a more rusted and less-experimental fashion. The funk passages are no longer full of pizazz, the vocals are getting themselves into grooves they seem too comfortable in and being completely devoid of emotion (unless you count, "Let's just try and get this done" as an emotion), as opposed to the pure energy that they showed with previous albums; and as said previously, all technicality is simply using the same guitar-tricks over and over again. Even the surreal lyrics can reach a point where they're simply getting cheesy. Dance Gavin Dance, a progressive post-hardcore band, has succeeded in becoming what no fan would ever think to describe them as: generic. While not necessarily generic in the genre of post-hardcore, the band seems generic in the sense that everything in this album has been done before, only better.
Though not to say this album is terrible. They've succeeded in making an album stronger and far more cohesive and polished than their debut LP, Downtown Battle Mountain
, and the tracks are still undeniably entertaining; and there are some outstanding parts in songs that make this worth a listen. From Will Swan's rapping in 'Spooks', to nearly the entirety of 'The Robot With Human Hair Pt. 2 1/2', and the wonderful poppiness that's nearly impossible to not be amused by in 'Elder Goose', this album is very enjoyable, if nothing else.
So while Dance Gavin Dance has made possibly their most poppy and immediately gratifying album to date, it also happens to be their least creative, as it gets shallow and stale on closer inspection and multiple listens.