Dance Gavin Dance

Downtown Battle Mountain II

Written by: TL on 09/03/2011 12:26:13

Rock'n'roll history has always been full of stories of individuals in which lived both great talent and great ego. California-based Dance Gavin Dance is only among the latests bands to solidify this. Exploding into the post-hardcore scene with their 2007 debut "Downtown Battle Mountain", the band was an instant success, but seemingly not one to last, seeing as singer Jonny Craig was soon fired in a storm of drama and accusations of drug usage. Since then, no DGD record has featured the same line-up, as mainman and lead-guitarist Will Swan doesn't seem able to get along with anyone for very long, except for drummer Matt Mingus, who is the only other member to have been featured on every one of the band's now five records.

With "Downtown Battle Mountain II", Dance Gavin Dance returns - except for the absence of ex-guitarist Sean O'Sullivan - to the constellation that earned the band its fame, with bassist Eric Lodge, screamer Jon Mess and Jonny Craig rejoining Swan and Mingus. If anyone hoped for the reunion to bring stability to the DGD name however, that already seems unlikely, considering that Craig has already been involved in a major scandal and spent a week in detox. That whole situation has been covered to death both here and elsewhere though, so let me attempt to just focus on the band's new music here:

Before all the drama, DGD fans were quite excited about Mess and Craig reuniting with Swan, and listening to "DBM II", you can't really fault them for that. The latter still plays a mean guitar, and his strange 'funk-core' style is unlike anything you're likely to hear anywhere else, and the same can be said about Mess's brazen, angry screams. As for the (in)famous Craig, his vocals have deservedly received infinite praise in the past, and he still highlights the soundscape, even if I find his performance to be slightly inferior to what he has delivered recently in his other band Emarosa. That being said, while "DBM II" has been hailed elsewhere as DGD's best record yet, I don't actually find any songs to be on par with the best offerings from any of the band's prior albums. Despite the title, DGD actually sound more like they did on their self-titled album, as the song-writing seems dominated both by a similar attitude and a similar inconsistency. Despite the qualities of Mess and Craig, their parts rarely truly compliment each other, and overall, thing don't seem to have the brilliant flow to them, that made prior album "Happiness" so good. Instead, DGD seem to have cheekily blended a mess of cool elements together, and left it for the listeners to find the good parts on their own.

That's not to say things are all down the drain however, as the album still has a couple of great songs in "Elder Goose" and "Heat Seeking Ghost Of Sex". Here, Craig and Mess settle into more conventional lead/backing roles, and with Craig's excellent cleans guiding the listener's attention, it suddenly becomes much easier to appreciate Mess's harsh intrusions, and the constantly underlying, constantly dazzling instrumentals. On the flipside, I also feel like I must mention that the lyrical content staggers randomly back and forth between parts that are pointed and parts that seem pretty lame, like when Craig sings about waking up and not knowing where he is, or Mess screams about playing basketball. Furthermore, Swan also contributes occasional rapping to the band's soundscape for the first time, and suffice to say I think he'd best not do that ever again.

In the end, "Downtown Battle Mountain II" strikes me as one of the more puzzling records I've had to review in recent times. It features unquestionable levels of talent from both instrumentalists and vocalists, and it fortifies DGD as a band that doesn't compare to many others. However, it is also hindered by unquestionable drawbacks, in form of the rapping, lyrical content and seemingly unrefined approach to songwriting. For me personally, it is not the best DGD album, not by a long shot, and every time I listen to it, I constantly want to return to the more focused "Happiness". The reasoning being, that this appears the ailing work of a band with boatloads of untapped potential, who could likely do great things, if they could grow up a bit, learn to manage their drug habits, and not change members every five minutes.


Download: Elder Goose, Heat Seeking Ghost Of Sex, Thug City
For The Fans Of: The Fall Of Troy, Emarosa, Closure In Moscow,
Listen: Rise Records @ youtube

Release Date 08.03.2011
Rise Records

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