LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Afterburner' - Dance Gavin Dance
Realising Dance Gavin Dance are on their ninth album has the potential to provoke an array of reactions. Among them, will be those praising the impact they’ve had in taking alternative music to a proficient plain. That's partly true. While far from the first act to combine emo and technical music, their distinctive sound has elevated them to a position where many up and coming bands are looking to them for inspiration. Of course, there will also those who will scoff at the discography, and ask how Tillian Pearson and co. have maintained such longevity off the coattails of one trick and nonsense lyrics. They also have a point - Afterburner is by no means a deviation from the recipe. All that said, though, they continue to prove themselves masters of hook-crafting, and complex poly-rhythms. Further, much as harsh vocalist John Mess still rejoices in lyrical oddities as “I'm just a corny cracker. I spilled my beans ‘cause I'm a fiend. I lost my extra mustard”, there’s also plenty of conscious wordplay. These musicians are not reinventing or tarnishing the genres they draw inspiration from. They are, however, prolifically creating, to a brilliant level of quality, radiating vitality in their performances.
Elegant, winding melodies, flow through the introduction to ‘Prisoner’. Soon, one of those acquainted funk-laden guitar parts sets in, reinstating the danceable nature, which has been a staple of this act's charm since the beginning. In fact, the ability to continuously command an anthem through multiple stylistic and tempo shifts is demonstrably present, excellently complementing the poetic theme of feeling lost inside a labyrinth of your own mind. ‘Lyrics Lie’ draws the listener further into the chaos, the ceaseless arpeggios behind the guitar work, and freneticism of the percussion, lending an enthralling instrumental background to the lashing divergence of the vocal arrangements. ‘Calentamiento Global’ – or ‘global warming’ translated from the Spanish - actually diversifies the formula quite a lot, drawing on traditional Spanish guitar, drumming, and singing styles to create a precise and detailed sound for the experiment. Perhaps to the disappointment of those who venerate creative risk, ‘Three Wishes’ and ‘One in a Million’ are forthright alt-rock, with elements of tech thrown in – both are still cleverly performed, yet serve as an indication that they will not be venturing into alien realms quite yet.
Requiring time and patience are the serene, dazed pieces in the vein of ‘Parody Catharsis’ and ‘Strawberry’s wake’. These are still familiar in the stylistic choices, yet lean into sentimental styles of songwriting, not too far detached from jazz-pieces which steadily affect you, without sending you into emotional hysteria. ‘Born to Fail’ ensures the ebbing and flowing qualities are kept intact, the alterations in speed and mood, playing out like a fierce battle between two actors with opposing mindsets, at a tipping point in their lives – a piercing addition, harnessing histrionic writing to enthral diverse audiences. Although, ‘Parallels’ comes next, lyrically and musically demonstrating that for every counterpart there’s a difficult to decipher piece of the puzzle – a track which will resolutely appeal to devotees. However, possessing an occasionally homogeneous sound is not equivalent to a refusal to reach across the aisle to adjacent sub-genres. ‘Night Sway’ strays into melodic-hardcore territory, while ‘Say Hi’ and ‘Nothing Shameful’ are borderline progressive in their ambitions. These have historically been difficult tastes to reconcile. For these, that feat seems second nature.
We finish on the compounded yet strangely beautiful ‘Into the Sunset’. The bringing together of ambient soundscapes with hip-hop beats and maddened routines leaves us on the reminder that as perplexing and bewildering as DGD may at times seem, they enjoy being an erratic, animated force, with a sound and charisma their fans can soundly rely on.
'Afterburner' is available for purchase and streaming now.
Check out the music video for 'Prisoner' below: