Review Summary: "Never satisfied. Or just never coming back."
When I listened to Dance Gavin Dance in my mid-teens, just before Acceptance Speech
was released in 2013, I had a problem with how producer Kris Crummett approached the band’s early music. I adored Jonny’s inimitable belts, Matt Mingus’ tight drumming, and Will Swan’s mastery of his instrument, but I felt that Crummett’s approach was too loud, too natural, and too loose. I yearned for what I thought could be a tighter, more subdued mix, one that might reign in the band’s eccentricities. When I heard “The Robot with Human Hair, pt. 4” for the first time, then, I was overjoyed. One-off producer Matt Malpass had given me exactly what I wanted: a restrained, floaty, quieter master, a significantly better-sounding Jon Mess, and a poppier experience than before. I appreciated Tilian’s angelic highs, the expressive melodies, and the intricacy of the writing. I appreciated the album’s darker tone.
It was only in 2018, when I heard the live versions of “The Jiggler” and “The Robot with Human Hair, pt. 4” on Tree City Sessions
, that I began to sour on the record. Hearing the two songs free of Malpass’ uninspired and flat mix, and bursting with the energy inherent in the compositions, I saw that Acceptance Speech
could have been much more than it was. I yearned for a remaster. And one year on, my wish has been granted, courtesy of Crummett himself. Crummett is in hindsight one of post-hardcore’s best producers, and Acceptance Speech 2.0
is a shocking, if not revelatory, remake. Listening to the title upon its release, I could hardly believe it was the same album, let alone the same recording. I was completely wrong many years ago: the best parts of Dance Gavin Dance’s songs are their dynamics, their progressive leanings, and their bizarro tendencies. Malpass’ mix only muted these strengths and boxed them in. Crummett’s natural, louder, and looser take maximizes their potential. It is surprising, almost surreal, to say, but Acceptance Speech 2.0
is a really, really good record, and a marked improvement on the original.
Acceptance Speech 2.0
sounds massive, as if someone removed mutes from the band’s instruments. Swan’s riffs, some of the most beautiful he has composed, soar, and his solo at the end of “Turn Off the Lights, I’m Watching Back to the Future pt. II” is still awesome. Mingus’ drums, which previously felt feeble, hit hard, especially on “Demo Team”. You can actually hear Tim Feerick's bass now. Jon Mess, who was already terrific on the Malpass version, is more shapely and sharp. No one benefits more here than Tilian, however. I disliked Tilian’s vocals on Acceptance Speech
because of the effects placed on his voice. Tilian showed in Tides of Man that he possesses impressive belting abilities, yet he came off as airy. Malpass made him, notwithstanding his already-light timbre, too bright and feminine. Crummett has rescued him: his performance is firmer and heavier, and one can finally appreciate his usual vocal gymnastics. Tilian is a phenom, even in a genre dominated by stupidly high tenors, and Acceptance Speech 2.0
is one of his finest showings.
Many of my initial quibbles with Acceptance Speech
have not been addressed. I am not convinced that the band are able to effectively reconcile the record’s cringe elements, from Swan’s rapping to the robot sounds on “Demo Team” and “Honey Revenge”’s creepypasta lyrics, with its genuinely moving harmonies and careful details. The album is a tad too long, and there might be too many breakdowns for my taste. A remaster cannot fix these hitches. But the endearing creativity of Acceptance Speech 2.0
’s songs, and Crummett's refreshing treatment of said songs, demands revisiting. Acceptance Speech 2.0
is one of Dance Gavin Dance’s strongest efforts, albeit one that was stuck in purgatory. Crummett, thankfully, has saved it from its fate.