Dance Gavin Dance
Telling someone to listen to a track titled “Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise” or “Petting Zoo Justice” may come off a bit contrived, but once you dive into the oddly titled tracks on Dance Gavin Dance’s Mothership you will no longer concern yourself with the bizarre, attention grabbing nature of their labels. The California-based band’s seventh full-length redefines the limits of post-hardcore with this experimental yet cohesive release, surprisingly coming off as one of the most well-constructed albums of 2016.
The overall incorporation of soulful vocal melodies paired with unclean screams and funky guitar riffs takes the genre to new heights. You’ve got to be ballsy to incorporate pan flutes into a track with disco-inspired melodies (“Young Robot”) or open a song with the phrase “Cocaine cringe fest!” (“Flossie Dickey Bounce”). There’s a youthful, whimsical nature rooted within Mothership reminiscent of the attitude many of the MySpace music moguls upheld back in the day, however, this time it’s complimented by a song writing and instrumental sophistication scarcely seen in the early 2000s.
For being so established in the polar combination of clean and unclean vocals, this entire album strays far from any -core clichés that it could have easily fallen back on. There’s an overall departure from any kind of breakdown, djent riff, or severe separation of clean choruses and unclean verses. Instead, listeners get tracks that are highly polished with lullaby-like bridges (“Deception”), edgy R&B tones (“Exposed”) and even some weird throwback techno highlights (“Chocolate Jackalope”). Don’t even get me started on how punchy the bluesy intro riff on “Here Comes the Winner” is as it slowly transitions into a more upbeat, plugged-in rock jam.
Dance Gavin Dance’s knowledge of various genres is impeccable and the overarching influences of those different sounds melds into the record without ever feeling forced. Mothership extends far past just great song structure. Tilian Pearson’s clean vocal range is extensive, and though he has a higher pitched voice, it is easily balanced out by the weight of Jon Mess’ uncleans. “Siren songs can pull you under/promise to be faithful when you go,” soothingly sets the mood for this closing track “Man of the Year”, before amping up into the song’s harsher latter half.
Mothership hits a few bumps in the road with the slightly too aggressive heavy weight champ “Petting Zoo Justice.” The intensity of the unclean vocals greatly drowns out the more blues-inspired backing guitar riff and the blatant divergence in vocal style and electronica-influence on “Chocolate Jackalope” is too abrasive, taking the overall vibe away from the record momentarily.
Lyrically, though, I could gush on for hours about this record. Pulling lines from the singles “Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise” and “Betrayed by the Game,” a sense of broadening insecurity continues to grace the overall theme of Mothership. “But failure is painful and lying is fun” and “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” ring out respectively.
When the youthful, carefree nature of the MySpace music revolution is finally forced to grow up, the result is something along the lines of Mothership. Upholding the lighthearted nature of humorously titled tracks, diverse riffs with layered vocals featuring flawless transitions between unclean and clean, and thought-provoking lyricism, Mothership is unexpectedly one of the most impressive records to be released in 2016.