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Before we dive into this review, I want to make one thing obtusely clear: I’m a sarcastic and over the top bastard. I always have been always will be. I simply cannot help it. It may sound obvious but a lot of what I say, even when I claim it as fact, is really just my opinion, drenched in irony and vast hyperboles. So if I tell you that, say, “Guns ‘N Roses are a fucking abomination upon this earth” – don’t take it too much to heart; I’m just havin’ a laugh. But one thing that is no matter laughing and that I won’t ever be sarcastic about is just how bloody good Dance Gavin Dance’s ‘Mothership’ is.
See, Dance Gavin Dance are one of the best fucking bands on this planet and you’re a goddamn scrotum-skinned-skunk-dick if you think otherwise (see my above point about sarcasm). Seriously, as if the astounding piece of art that was 2015’s ‘Instant Gratification’ wasn’t enough to prove it, then this year’s new album ‘Mothership’ sure as shit will!
Right away the boys in DGD hit us hard with ‘Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise’, an intense yet dizzyingly catchy track about mental illness and the issues pertaining to self-medication. The band waste no time in giving us their absolute all with this opening song. They cash in all their chips right from the words ‘go’ as we’re treated to those classic chaotic verses, anointed with Jon Mess’ dry, harsh yet visceral screams. This is all before we jettison into the stratosphere to join the song’s monolithic chorus that’ll make your head spin as singer Tilian Pearson soothes your soul with his angelic voice. Oh, and don’t for one second forget about the eclectic bridge and outro to balance it all out with more hooks, screams, and magical-musical disorder. And holy fuck; this is the only first track!
‘Young Robot’ has a motherfuckin’ pan flute solo at it’s beginning and if that isn’t the greatest thing to happen on this earth then I don’t know what is. Other than that, the song perfectly implores the band’s groovier and jazzier influences and lets them shine brightly in the sun for all to see whilst still implanting a stronger pop sensibility. Seriously, this song demands that you sing and dance to it in the most joyful way possible!
I’m now going to touch on one of the above points because it applies so well to just about every single song on ‘Mothership’, and that’s about the band shifting towards a more chorus focused style. This is something I noted on last year’s ‘Instant Gratification’ with tracks such as ‘Death of a Strawberry’ and ‘Awkward’. Whilst I adore that album in so many ways, I can’t help but say that on ‘Mothership’, the band has truly nailed this shift through a more seamless integration of their older sounds. One need only to listen to ‘Flockie Dickey Bounce’ to see what I mean. In the short two and half minutes that that track exists for, DGD blend and interweave together staccato rich jazz grooves before, and without any warning or a jarring shift, it transforms into a blissfully melodic soundscape that is so foreign from where the track began, yet it still fits so perfectly. (Also, this melody on ‘Flockie Dickey Bounce’ is scarily similar to ‘Landing Cliffs’ by Explosions in the Sky. Does this mean that I get to call Dance Gavin Dance post-rock now? No? Yeah, fair enough.)
Songs like ‘Philosopher King’ and ‘Petting Zoo Justice’ find themselves drenched in the group’s typical post-hardcore influences with more subtle nuances of both jazz and pristine melody intertwined. ‘Inspire the Liars’ happily shifts between all the facets of Dance Gavin Dance’s discography: The hardcore, the math-rock, and the pop influences all play a huge part in this song and it all culminates in making it one of the standout songs. Another big nod goes to ‘Inspire the Liars’ for featuring not only one of Tilian’s best melodies EVER (you’ll know it when it hits) but it also has an otherworldly outro that sees some terrific back and forth between Mess and Tilian whilst the remaining member fill out the track to a claustrophobic level. Though in saying this, lead single ‘Betrayed by the Game’ sees the band’s near entirely shift towards a solely pop/melodic emphasis – the chorus here is just utterly hypnotising – with only slight hints of their heavy elements showing up briefly. It’s easily one of the better songs on the record, of which is filled to the brim with new classics, and this is perhaps one of the band’s best songs entire discography. A very big call, I know.
Now, if I had to pick one song and one song only on ‘Motherhsip’ to recommend, it would have to be ‘Chocolate Jackalope’, which is an absolute monster of a track! Will Swan shows off his guitar chops with an opening lead that is not only immensely impressive but also captivating and so immensely appealing on a pure musical level. It’s not just, “Hey look at me with my crazy fast guitar skills! Can you see how quick I can play? Haha, I am so fast at the guitar, I am totally not compensating for low sexual performance”. No, it’s actually a catchy lead part and is almost beautiful in a way. Mix that with the track’s massive choruses, a sensational middle-eight and a lyrical Drake reference (no prizes for guessing which one) and you have yourself a certified banger. It’s also in B-flat major which is my second favorite key so I might be somewhat biased here. I know that sounds a little bit snobby of me to point but I think it’s important to show that we music writers/reviewers are often educated on musical theory, that we do play instruments and that we do play in bands, and that we aren’t all just whiny pissbabies who suck on each other’s farts all day (ain’t that right, Benny Clark?).
Okay, I’m gonna end this review here. I could ramble on and on about how fucking great ‘Mothership’ is for countless more paragraphs but I’ll stop now before I get too carried away. What you should know as you leave this review is that whatever Dance Gavin Dance decide to do, they do it well. Like, really well. Like so fucking well it makes you want to shrivel up into a little ball because you probably won’t ever have this kind of talent.
This band’s understanding on how to write melodies, on chord voicing, on fully utilising their tight rhythm section and how to fill out their choruses is bar none. It’s evident in the grooves that summon up an insatiable lust for physical movement, in the cathartic chaotic sections lead by Jon Mess, and on how they seemingly taking influence from The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Chariot (minus the feedback and the harsh edits). But nowhere is this band’s musicianship and craft on a higher level than when they break out into those powerful, soaring choruses and massive sing-alongs that feel so alive and so captivating you can’t help but get lost in their beauty and passion. Then, after all, this, the band just somehow pulls it all together into a neat package and says: ‘Here ya go, enjoy it’. As if it were no big deal! Well, let me tell you, ‘Mothership’ is a big deal because it’s phenomenal and is by a country mile my album of the whole goddamn year. No doubt about it.
01. Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise
02. Young Robot
03. Frozen One
04. Flossie Dickey Bounce
06. Inspire The Liars
07. Philosopher King
08. Here Comes The Winner
10. Betrayed By The Game
11. Petting Zoo Justice
12. Chocolate Jackalope
13. Man Of The Year
‘Mothership’ is out now via Rise Records and it’s fucking amazing. Also, can you tell how much I love the way this band structures their songs? Re-read this review and do a shot every time I mention anything related to a chorus or sections of a song then Tweet us the results. Or don’t. I don’t really care either way.