Dance Gavin Dance

Instant Gratification

Written by: TL on 19/04/2015 17:35:32

Ten years into their existence, Sacramento-based technical post-hardcore weirdos Dance Gavin Dance are finally as close to settled down as they are probably likely to ever be. Aric Garcia has taken over as the live substitution for departed rhythm guitarist Josh Benton, but otherwise the cast is the same that brought us 2013's spectacular "Acceptance Speech", which means that there's also more continuity than ever to be traced from that album to the new "Instant Gratification", which came out earlier this week.

Behind clean vocalist Tilian Pearson the band seems to have worked out a formula where they spazz out in the verses and bridges, yet fall in line when time comes for the singer to tie bows on things in form of his catchy choruses. The rhythm section continues to sway between furious mathcore patterns and more exotic and progressive Mars Volta-ish adventures, while Will Swan's guitar creations schizophrenically race through proggy, jazzy and funky figures with a speed and dexterity that belongs on some secret ultra-nightmare difficulty of Rock Band or Guitar Hero. On top, Jon Mess provides raspy screams, functioning almost like a hype man from hip-hop, injecting grit and energy into the soundscape between and below Pearson's melodies.

With the way the band structures things now though, it's clear that they rely on Pearson's cleans to brand the separate songs, and while the former Tides Of Man singer arguably has less texture and power compared to the band's previous singers (Jonny Craig of Slaves and Kurt Travis of A Lot Like Birds), his tone is still unmistakable, and he seems to deliver his hooks in a less haphazard way than particularly Craig was (and is) prone to. His talents are on display right off the bat in the exhilarating opener "We Own The Night", where his drawn out crooning of those same words is among the first things to lodge itself in your mind as you start to listen to the album. Not long after, "On The Run" arrives at another highlight, dropping from its sugary pop chorus to a mellow yet suspenseful bridge that seizes you by the ears on every listen, and later, in "Death Of A Strawberry", another bullet is put into the band's clip of sure shot live-singalongs, with the quick notes of "Hey! Just for the day we'll pretend I'm made of money. I'll be your sugar daddy! Let's make a fool of ourselves and crash a party, act like we own the place!".

Lyrics like that are characteristic, however, of the band's provocative style, and there's no shortage of vulgarity, like when Swan delivers one of his occasional curiosity raps including a bit like "Line up some blow on your tits and blow the rest in your face". And while the album's closing song "Lost" seems intended as a response to the criticism Mess, as the band's primary lyricist, has been subject to in the past, it's a simple fact that the band's sound is routinely so crazy busy, that you get distracted as a listener and are thus likely to miss it when there's context to suggest that the controversial bits are in fact caricature. Adding the fact that Mess' screaming is perhaps the only element of the band's sound, that doesn't immediately stand out as being miles ahead of what most bands in the various -core genres can muster, and he figures to remain at the receiving end of most of the criticism directed at the band, which in turn though, only seems likely to guarantee more fuel for fiery lyrics in the future.

What is, in fact, a more divisive characteristic of "Instant Gratification" is its inconsistency. Regardless of the ridiculous richness of the instrumental movements at every turn, the songs can feel a bit directionless when Pearson's hooks aren't at their best, and particularly the songs five to eight, from "Shark Dad" to "Legend", are more pleasantly stimulating than the mind-blowingly awesome that fans have come to expect for the band to deliver routinely. Here you can get to thinking that the group's comrades in Hail The Sun did better at sequencing parts in more captivating progressions on last year's "Wake", and that DGD still have avenues to improve on in that aspect. And it's a shame that you feel this impact in the middle of the record, because it means you do risk being exhausted as a listener before making it to the two final tracks "Variation" and "Lost", which otherwise do much to inspire return listens by simply feeling more urgent compared to the cheeky poses stricken in many of the band's other songs.

Overall, "Instant Gratification" is not a perfect record, and it feels unlikely for a band like Dance Gavin Dance to muster up the focus to make one at this point. After all, their sound has always been fragmented and all over the place, but that is of course also one of their persistent strengths. And album considerations aside, the raw musical technicality of the band is mindblowing as ever, and in that sense the record delivers fully on the next level listening experience that fans have come to expect, while also dropping off a solid handful of bombshell singles in the process.


Download: On The Run, We Own The Night, Death Of A Strawberry, Lost
For The Fans Of: Hail The Sun, The Mars Volta, Circa Survive, Icarus The Owl

Release date 14.04.2015
Rise Records

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