Review Summary: A return of original talent? Absolutely. A return to form? Not exactly.
When Dance Gavin Dance, post-hardcore’s favourite revolving door line-up, announced that the original members were returning and naming their new record in homage to Downtown Battle Mountain
, I showed some cautious interest; While Downtown Battle Mountain
was a great album, I was afraid that the band might be turning their back on all the tremendous progress they’ve made with evolving their sound over the years. After being experimental with their Self-Titled and creating funky grooves with Happiness
, would Downtown Battle Mountain II
serve as a continuing progression of the band’s sound, or would it simply rehash the band’s old sound?
Ironically enough, I have to say that Downtown Battle Mountain II
sounds nothing like the original: where-as Downtown Battle Mountain
focused more on heavy streamlined riffs, this record is more of a mix between the experimental style of the S/T and the funk of Happiness
. “Spooks” gets things started on the right foot, as the band shows off its versatile structures by going from busy guitar and drums to a funky rap section. “Heat Seeking Ghost Of Sex” is a more straight-forward, harder-hitting song, while “Thug City” flows terrifically with its use of louder and softer dynamics, build-ups and catchy choruses. The band even takes it’s time to homage Happiness
with the laid-back, groovier “Blue Dream”, which proves to be one of the album’s highlights.
But a glaring fault in Downtown Battle Mountain II
is that, while some songs are enjoyable as a whole, some songs are only enjoyable in parts: I really enjoyed “Robot With Human Hair Pt. 2 ½” with the first couple of listens, but I now only find joy listening to certain sections after the song took some time to set in (Jonny’s entrance at 2:30, to name one). “Pounce Bounce” has some catchy guitar but the song length feels too short, “Elder Goose” has some great riffs from time to time, and “Purple Reign” only gets interesting until the build-up at the very end. But while some songs have some merit, there are some songs that are just a mess: “Need Money”, aside from its building, orchestra-hit-sounding riff at the beginning and end, is a swirl of schizophrenic grooves and needless riff changes. Other head-scratchers include “Privilously Poncheezied” and “Swan Soup”, which sound less like songs and more like recycling bins for the band’s throw-away riffs.
And aside from the collection of good, bad and ugly, Downtown Battle Mountain II
also features the band members utilizing some new tricks. On the plus side, Jonny Craig turns everything he touches into gold, sounding just as good as he did before, while the drummer for the band has really peaked creatively and shows off his talents through-out the album. On the negative side, I’m not really digging Jon Mess’s new screaming approach, as he sounds too whiny and grating more often than not, and I find that the guitar’s wah-wah effect is a little over-utilized at times on the album.
So while I commend the band for continuing the evolution of their sound, I can’t really say that Downtown Battle Mountain II
was overly successful, even though it’s by no means a bad effort. While Downtown Battle Mountain II
houses a ton of different styles and tastes, there is just too much inconsistency that drags it down, and it really fails to capture the creativity and tasteful structure that made the original Downtown Battle Mountain
so successful. I know that fans of the band already have enough debate fodder on their plate (Kurt vs. Jonny, Happiness vs. S/T vs. DBM, Will vs. Jon, etc.), but I’m sure the new elements and features of Downtown Battle Mountain II
will, with good reason, introduce a slew of fresh arguments and discussions about one of post-hardcore’s more creative and notorious bands.