Review Summary: Instant Gratification lives up to its name, and adds a bit more gratification every time you hit the "repeat" button.
For post-hardcore denizens Dance Gavin Dance, Acceptance Speech
represented something of a milestone. It featured the introduction of their third clean vocalist, Tilian Pearson, and it was their first time placing production duties in the palms of someone other than Kris Crummett (Matt Malpass). They were a band with something to prove. Although the album failed to resonate with a few older fans, it brought them more success than they’d ever previously seen: it peaked at 42 on the Billboard 200, and sent them off on a number of headlining tours. Combined with the explosive expansion of guitarist Will Swan’s personal record label, Blue Swan Records, Dance Gavin Dance was more buzzed about than at any other point in their career – and for reasons involving just the music. They’d finally achieved fame for something other than lineup changes and Macbook scams. The band has always seemed to perform its best under pressure, however, and it was unclear whether the lack of anything shaking up the status quo would lead to a stagnant record. Thankfully, quite the opposite is true – the band’s newfound stability has birthed arguably the most cohesively brilliant record of their entire career.
is very much instantly recognizable as a DGD record, and it’s just as gratifying as that status implies. Loud, complicated, catchy, melodic – for a band constantly labeled as experimental, Dance Gavin Dance hasn’t done much to escape its own sound since Happiness
was released a cool six years ago. But each album they’ve done has been as different and distinct as any band could hope to make their records. Instant Gratification
in particular does a wonderful job of encompassing all of the group’s sounds on one album while cranking up the overall intensity. “On the Run” sounds like it was ripped straight from the previous record, with a mid-tempo pace and very separate and distinct parts for Tilian and screamer Jon Mess. “The Cuddler” feels very inspired by the bouncy technicality of Downtown Battle Mountain II
. “Death of a Strawberry” is the only sequel track on the album, finishing off the “Strawberry Swisher” series of songs that started on Happiness
; unlike the follow up to the series on Acceptance Speech
which felt like a sequel mostly in name only, this track keeps both the slower, groovier feel and the sexy tone of the lyrics.
One of the first announcements made about the record was the return of producer Kris Crummett to the fold. He’s continuously demonstrated his ability to blend the fast-paced, technical guitar work that DGD is famed for with the soaringly melodic singing that brings all the girls out to the shows and the coarse, unrefined screaming that keeps their boyfriends from leaving them there, all in a way that makes sure everything is given equal treatment under the sonic law. Dance Gavin Dance is a band dripping with density, and being able to decipher it all is a key part of enjoying their music. Matt Malpass made the mistake of over-emphasizing the vocals in his mix for the previous album, and it made everything sound much messier and obscured than it needed to. Crummett’s mix here has none of that – it’s as clear as his production has ever been, and instead of over-processing his vocals, he lets them sound much more natural. Don’t let any of this fool you into thinking Instant Gratification
isn’t a slick, produced-sounding record, but it’s only as slick and produced as it needs to be.
But there’s also a lot of stuff here that deserves more than a direct comparison to past material. “We Own The Night” sets the tone with a much different and more somber-sounding opening than any DGD album since perhaps the very first. For a band that’s known for having very similar openers on each record, it’s a breath of fresh air. “Shark Dad” was co-written by Secret Band guitarist Martin Bianchini, which contributes to it being perhaps the heaviest song the band has authored yet. Finally, “Legend”, one of the best tracks on the record, is completely owned by Tilian’s vocal melodies and a chorus that lives up to the song’s title.
The album closes with “Lost”, which could easily be considered the band’s most intense song yet – its blazingly fast pace, taxing amount of technicality, placement in a minor key, and depressingly desperate lyrics make it immediately jump out at the end of the record. Tilian begs for relief – “I am lost/Need a god/Somewhere to go when it’s all over”. But it was certainly odd hearing those words at the end, because what the band was expressing lyrically seemed to be the exact opposite of what they had conveyed musically – that they’ve never been less lost in their lives, and that Dance Gavin Dance knows exactly what they’d like to sound like.
is the first time in eight years the band have managed to keep the same set of vocalists between albums, and it certainly shows, because it’s the most mature album the band has ever released. Its density means that parts of it might not instantly gratify you, but you’ll be satisfied enough to keep listening until they do.