More than a decade since their inception, where do Dance Gavin Dance find themselves? Not at the summit of Battle Mountain, but on the Mothership. A climb to new heights, or a retreat? We’ll see.
Open ‘Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise’ and one could make immediate comparisons with more recent offerings from Protest The Hero. Dance Gavin Dance’s sound, once the epitome of a certain type of emo aesthetic, has matured into something much more technical and mature. Lead singer Tilian Pearson’s vocal range – while well-known and established – also deserves to be mentioned here; it’s seriously impressive. While ex-vocalist Jonny Craigs’ R&B-esque tones made for unusual and interesting listening, the band’s switch toward a more volatile sound makes for both a more visceral instrumentation and a more forgiving and interesting line for Pearson to play with.
Going into song two, ‘Young Robot’, you’ll find something surprising about this album. Representative as they are of that mid-00s moment in music, it’s easy to expect that sound to repeat itself here. As with the bands of quality that have survived the decade since that halcyon era of Californian alt-rock however, Dance Gavin Dance have evolved – and grown up. Mothership is not simply an exercise in post-hardcore nostalgia; it’s a big, competent album on which talented musicians are exploring their capabilities – and maybe seeing what they can get away with.
Come track three and there’s a sudden and striking Fall Of Troy feel to proceedings, the technical tone of the last two tracks subtly changing to something more playful. The musicianship on this album really is fantastic.
‘Flossie Dickey Bounce’ sounds like Motion City Soundtrack had a fight with Bring Me The Horizon, made up, fell in love and wrote a song together. It’s bizarre and great.
This album is delightful in that it’s straightforwardly enjoyable – read: melodic and clean with decent hooks – whilst maintaining a slightly manic, challenging edge. It would – and I have no doubt, will – stand up to many listens. Pearson and second vocalist Jon Mess are in turns furious and violent, then soft and tender, Pearson singing with a quality and cleanliness equal to – and reminiscent of – legendary crooner Dallas Green.
The heady mix of energy, ferocity and melody are sustained right to the end, finishing with big hitter ‘Man Of The Year’ – an epic, thudding soundscape.
Dance Gavin Dance have often included elements of emo, post-hardcore, jazz fusion, progressive rock and screamo into their signature sound, and this album is no different. With moments of hard-hitting tech-metal excellence one minute followed by progressive tempo changes and poppy vocal refrains the next, it’s hard to know where one stands with this album – it’s a constant exercise in movement. It keeps you on your toes, and it’s fun.