Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dismemberment Plan

Dismemberment Plan- !

‘!’ was a minor revelation when it came out. There was nothing out of the ordinary about jagged, poppy D.C. post punk in 1995. A lot of bands of similar ilk always seemed deadly serious to me- the Plan infused a bizarre sense of humor into the entire affair. The levity was very much appreciated.

Years later, the names of songs off of ‘!’ were the ones I would shout out when the band asked the crowd what we wanted to hear. Not because of the ‘I was there back in the day’ factor (well, okay, maybe a wee bit) but because the songs were cool and funny- “13th and Euclid” had a chorus of ‘shut up shut up shut the fuck up’ followed by a voice way in the background shouting ‘13th and Euclid- please help me!’ “Onward Fat Girl” was another one- allegedly about Ian MacKaye (‘!’ indeed.) Some of the songs on the record are D.C. by numbers (‘Survey Says’ feels more and more Jawboxian as time passes, though the band fully acknowledges their debt to the band on the split with Juno by sampling Jawbox into a song- more on that in a bit.) Still, what band isn’t at least a little derivative to start? There’s enough interesting things going on to keep the record moving along at a good clip.

I understand that bands move on and don’t want to revisit their back catalogue (especially when said bands, like the Plan, had rigorous tour schedules and played their old stuff fifty zillion times.) Later on, though, it was always a joy to hear the old stuff live , and “OK Jokes Over” was the standard set closer for years.

Dismemberment Plan- Ice of Boston +3

I never picked up ‘…..Is Terrified,’ so my knowledge of the songs contained therein is very limited- just what I gleaned from live shows and roommates. Of course, I know ‘The Ice Of Boston’ because it’s the song that served as the hit (plus, very predictably, it’s always been popular in town.) I think it’s a funny, cool song.

The demo of ‘Spider In The Snow’ is okay- demos, you know- and the other two songs are b-side throwaways. I think this CD is for collectors, probably peaked at like fifteen or twenty bucks on eBay.

Dismemberment Plan- Emergency and I

You’ve gotta understand the instant ubiquity of ‘Emergency and I’. Seriously, after it came out the record swept across hipsterland like a match on gasoline- everyone had it, talked about it, went out to shows to see the band at the peak of their power. Their live sets were amazing in terms of both performance and crowd energy. A wonderful time.

I bought the record, liked it very much- jittery and varied, vibrant. Listened to it at parties and get-togethers, on the headphones, in the car. It was always playing somewhere.

(I keep mentioning the record’s ubiquity because it’s important for the rest of the review. Just picture six months of hearing the record once a day, somewhere.)

So cut to last night, me listening to the record in its entirety for the first time in like three years or so. I’m sitting here at my desk, right, lyrics in hand, reading along, and after the first song (which, it should be said, pays homage to/steals liberally from both Thin Lizzy and Steely Dan- a very bold opening statement) I thought ‘Jesus, that totally reminds me of myself like three years ago.’ Not that I realized at the time, mind you, even though I heard the fucking record like a zillion times and can sing along with most of it.

Same thing with the second song, the third, the fourth, etc.

It’s amazing to me, now, that ‘Emergency and I’ perfectly describes the period in my life in which I was grappling with the scenarios described on the album, even though at the time I was doing the listening I had no idea that it was my life being sung about. I wasn’t really hearing it- because I was in it, I suppose. You know, you’re so wrapped up in doing _________ that you can’t see what’s going on. That’s where I was for a long time, concentrating on some things in order to ignore others.

I am just floored at how articulate Travis Morrison really is- issues of identity and self-confidence and expectations are ruminated on with such honesty that it’s like listening to a diary or something- it’s fucking scary to me how much of this record I identify with, how much of it feels like it happened to me.

MIX TAPE: ‘Gyroscope’

Dismemberment Plan/Juno- split

Two songs from each band- a cover and an original.

You’ll be able to read my gushing reviews of the Juno albums in a few months. ‘Non-Equivilents’ is okay. Not as good as their cover of DJ Shadow’s ‘High Noon.’

The Plan covers that pop song ‘Crush,’ which I never liked in its original form. ‘Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich’ is a riot, another staple of their live show that comes right out and samples a riff from Jawbox (remember, this is a band that started off their career by aping Jawbox. Sampling ‘Cutoff’ is pretty ballsy.) funny lyrics and lots of bleeps and bloops that may be sampled from an Atari 2600.

Dismemberment Plan- Change

I bought ‘Change,’ listened to it like five times and then filed it away under ‘disappointment.’ The record sounded pretty wimpy, like Talking Heads Lite, I thought, featuring not nearly enough of the spazzy herky-jerk that so charmed me on the earlier stuff. I knew that they were trying to follow ‘Emergency and I’ with something solid, that the maturity tip never hurts after a groundbreaking record. Still, though, I wasn’t into it.

It makes a lot more sense now that I have come out of the general place that is articulated so well on ‘Emergency and I,’ that particular not-knowing-what-the-fuck-is-going-on zone that hits twentysomething urbanites. ‘Change’ is more chill, more collected. It makes sense- the frantic urgency that comes with trying too hard (in the case of the whole twentysomething thing, trying too hard to figure things out) has mellowed, resulting in more attention and focus.

The album hasn’t grown on me- one of the limitations of my alphabetical project is that I sometimes don’t feel like I have enough time to relax and enjoy my record collection, intent instead on trying to get everything listened to, thought about and reviewed. Having said that, though, ‘Change’ sounded damn good when I put it on last night right after ‘Emergency and I’- less reliance on gimmicks, more reliance on song structure. Not a bad combination. It’s far less desperate, and is a record I should give another change. Uh, chance.


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