Dance Gavin Dance

Dance Gavin Dance (The Death Star Album)

Written by: TL on 19/08/2008 01:21:17

Dance Gavin Dance is a band that has had a turbulent run ever since their formation back in 2006, and while the parting with (in)famous singer Jonny Craig (who now sings in Emarosa) was probably the most talked about change to their lineup, they've actually also had to find substitutes on the guitarist and bassist spots, between the release of their debut "Downtown Battle Mountain" and their new self-titled album, nick-named "The Death Star Album", for its curious cover art.

It almost goes without saying that when so many band members are exchanged, it's hardly the same band we're dealing with, and obviously that means the sound is far from the same as well. Considering the Jonny Craig-controversy though, what most fans are worried about first and foremost is if his successor Kurt Travis can fill out his shoes. The answer is not an unequivocal yes, as Jonny probably has one of the most distinct voices in the scene of today. However, Kurt is a skillful singer in his own right, and for what it's worth, his voice, similar to Jonny's as it is, still stands as one of the band's best assets.

In listening to "The Death Star Album", scenesters who've buried themselves in recent screamo-releases (like me) might be immediately alienated by the form of the new expression, seeing as it departs from the fashionable epic take on the genre, and its associated trends regarding layered guitar arrangements and (sometimes pretentious) attempts at highly sophisticated drama and passion. The songs here are first and foremost more bitter and personal than that, and they're harder to pigeon-hole, seeing as DGD applies their tools to somewhat different tasks throughout the course of the album. Even after dozens of listens, opener "Alex English" still stands before me as the most prominent example of the band's capabilities, showcasing how the band has chosen to let their parts linger and take up more space in their songs than the popular pretty part/heavy part take-turn approach. Starting with an insanely memorable guitar-riff, then picking up pace and aggression until the bitter words "We should fuckin' be together!" collapses the momentum and makes way for the foremost display of Kurt's abilities as he sings a hauntingly beautiful clean ending to the song.

"Buffalo" however, passes by rather easy, with it's Fall Of Troy-ish riffs and cheeky scream-hooks, before "Me And Zoloft Get Along Fine" again leaves room for Kurt to weave his magic. By now it's apparent to me that it's the notes from his throat that have to lift the songs from being just alright to a level where they'll really catch your attention. The three next tracks seem to mess around between the elements shown in the first three, without ever making them work as well, and even if the sixth track, the short reprise of "Hot Water On Wool", holds a bit of promise, it's not until we get to the three tracks that feature prominent guest singers that things get interesting again.

In "Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most", featuring sleazy vocals by Nic Newsham (of Gatsby's American Dream), the band has their most stand-out track, which with his vocals makes you doubt if you're to love it for its catchy pop-punkness or as some smartass post-modern parody on the same thing. It's not as captivating as "Alex English" but it's easily different enough from the formula the band applied to the three former songs, to mount a much stronger identity. "Caviar" then shows us just how well it suits Chino Moreno (yes, that Chino Moreno) to sing on top of quieter and more atmospheric soundscapes, and I'm shivering at the thought of what could've been achieved if there had been even more of his vocal interplay with Kurt Travis. Regarding the last track "Rock Solid", the second most pissed off song on the record, I have to say that I'm not a Matt Geise-fan (Lower Definition), so his inclusion does little to excite me, and despite the goofy conversation in the middle of the song, it stands out as the weakest of the three guest-tracks.

Then the band gives us three more tracks that have so far not had any success in lashing onto me, and it seems that the scream/clean dynamic isn't working too well when neither is given enough time to blossom before being overtaken by the other. This shows perfectly again in the closing "People You Know". Despite the fact that DGD's screams currently are far from the voluminous levels many of their contemporaries boast, they manage to sound so unmistakably pissed off that the interest barometer rises to substantial heights again, at least until the totally unnecessary electronic ambience rounds off the album.

In total? Well, Dance Gavin Dance officially delivers at least a handful of good songs, distances themselves from their contemporaries in expression and shows a will to experiment with different arrangements and guest contributors, so that all counts for something. On the other side of the scale, however, it's weighing down that half the good tracks seem to be good because the band had help on them, and one can't but wonder if all tracks but "Alex English" and "Me And Zoloft.." would've been as anonymous as the handful I didn't name, had the band been left to their own devices. In my opinion at least, it's vital for the band to have faith in their distinct clean and heavy arrangements, and give them enough time and room respectively, in order to drive home a punch of their own, rather than tripping over each others feet. Apart from that, I'm also not sure about how intelligent I feel listening to a band that feels it's necessary to use as much profanity as DGD does on "The Death Star Album", but seeing as that just might be me getting old, I'm going to refrain from deducting any style points for that, and leave the grade at a hopeful


Download: Alex English, Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most, Me And Zoloft Get Along Fine, Caviar
For The Fans Of: The Fall Of Troy, Pierce The Veil, Alesana

Release Date 19.08.2008
Rise Records

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