You know how teenagers think they know it all? Well, sometimes they do.
When Dance Gavin Dance’s Mothership hit my inbox I took the opportunity to listen because they’re one of my daughter’s favorite bands going back about a decade. Even though I screamed “Turn that shit down!” through her locked bedroom door more times than either of us had the patience to count, I decided to give Mothership a shot.
And that was it. Really
Okay, it was more like this:
A few bars of guitar feedback
Cue unclean vocalist Jon Mess
Give me that canvas/let me paint some shit
Cue Tilian Pearson’s
clean heavenly vocals
Pass me some poison/let me take a hit
Then back and forth they take their turns taking my breath.
I’m just embarrassed and comfortably numb
But failure is painful and lying is fun
Dress coat, cocktails, looking so fancy
We feel like we’re a little bit classy
Cheers to the fact that we’re not dead
I’m sitting back. I’m leaning forward. My jaw is on the ground. One hand draws back my hair, the other presses my earbud in deeper. Then together Mess and Pearson sing:
Swimming with the sharks but we’re still not dead yet
And then the melody changes. Then again. Then again. Then Tilian sings:
Don’t close your eyes tonight/perfect melodies are hard to find
I click the pause button. This is all over the place. It’s almost biblical, the way the unclean meets the clean, vocally speaking. Melodies change abruptly, story lines, if they exist at all, are esoteric. I’ve never heard anything quite like Dance Gavin Dance, and I’ve never wanted to write the perfect review so bad in my life. So I click play, take out a pen, and try to capture lightening on paper. I research Dance Gavin Dance and vow to devour their entire catalog so I can write the most informed and on point review of my life.
Two months later I’m still trying to write this review, and Mothership comes out tomorrow. I have memorized every song on this CD. There are no misses. I’ve listened to all Dance Gavin Dance’s CDs, and fallen in love with all their lead vocalists. I’ve decided there is no point in comparing one CD to another any more than I can compare Jonny to Kurt to Tilian. I can draw some parallels; for instance you get another song about the Robot With Human Hair (“Young Robot”). Maybe a few more connections can be made by their oldest diehard fans, but me? I’m a new diehard fan, so I’m writing this review to you, the person who hasn’t heard of Dance Gavin Dance, or hasn’t listened to them. I’m going to tell you that this is one of the most amazing productions of the year. I’m going to tell you that Mothership is like nothing you’ve heard from any other band. It’s not a scream rock verse followed by a clean vocal chorus, like many pop punk and alt core bands. There is no formula followed here. Each song is like unwrapping a unique gift from a friend who knows you completely and excels in delighting you with surprises.
I can’t give you a play-by-play because Mothership is a fully immersive experience, but let me give you some highlights. “Young Robot” turns so many hooks it’s dizzying. How a song can be so cohesive yet so scrambled is baffling. “Flossie Dickey Bounce” starts with a screaming intro of “Cocaine cringe fest,” and somehow turns into the most lovely and heart aching song of courtship and regret. “Deception” shows off Tilian’s soaring vocals, as he weaves his siren song in and around Mess’ throaty roar. “Inspire the Liars” has Pearson turning his instrument loose, screaming as beautifully as he croons. Every song on Mothership feels like flipping through a bipolar’s diary. There is anger:
I don’t even fucking feel a thing
And then there are vulnerable confessions:
I just crashed my car / and it got me thinking of you / So I just thought I’d call to tell you / I still love you
Each song vacillates within and throughout the whole of the collection. When the final song, “Man of the Year” ends the CD with the lyrics
Don’t be alarmed to discover / siren songs can pull you under
I burst into a tearful smile. It’s not unusual for a song to fit your mood, or even create one. Listening to Mothership is more like having someone read your mind, then giving all your voices, a voice.
It’s been a long time since a band gripped me like this. Maybe this is the magic of Dance Gavin Dance. Maybe it’s just magic. Either way, I recommend you find out for yourself when Mothership goes on sale tomorrow. Also, hug your teenager and tell her to turn that shit up. You just never know.