Review: Dance Gavin Dance, ‘Instant Gratification’
When I was first coming into playing in bands at about 14 years old, the first one I ended up in was a “post-hardcore” band, which I say lightly because we had no idea how to write a song, of any genre. I was told about bands like The Devil Wears Prada, Drop Dead, Gorgeous, From First to Last, and Attack Attack! These bands all had one thing I noticed about them; they were all signed to the same label, Rise Records. I remembered the name, and soon it became a household name for me. Rise Records always tends to get a bad rap for being the one stop shop for cookie-cutter, trend hopping acts, but Dance Gavin Dance is one of those bands that prove that how untrue that actually is.
The first time I ever caught Dance Gavin Dance live, I had already missed Jonny Craig leaving the band, Kurt Travis’ two-album journey, and Jonny Craig coming back to the band. It was 2011, and I was at the Buffalo date of Warped Tour. I was sunburnt, and the amphitheater had shade. So I sat and watched Dance Gavin Dance play. Damn, I had been missing out. Dance Gavin Dance’s mixture of post-hardcore, progressive, and soulful groove was something that I could get into. After that show, I listened to every Dance Gavin Dance album, finding different nuances I liked about every different combination of members they’ve had. Fast forward to 2015, Jonny Craig came and went again, and Tilian Pearson has taken the reigns of lead vocals. With already one new album under their belt, 2013’s Acceptance Speech, Dance Gavin Dance is here to show that Instant Gratification is what this band has become, and that they’re confident in what they do.
The album kicks off with “We Own the Night,” and immediately you can feel that the album is exactly what you wanted to hear from DGD. Tilian has really found where his voice fits in the band, and he starts right at minute one, painting a picture with help from Will Swan’s whimsical, but precise guitar work. Soon, you hear the grit of Jon Mess’ yells, and the frantic beating of Matt Mingus’ drums pounding away, and the picture of what the album is all about has taken shape. From there, the record continues to move forward through “Stroke God, Millionaire” and “Something New,” both great tracks, playing heavily on Dance Gavin Dance’s very sexual lyrical themes, much like twisted love songs. “On The Run,” the fourth track on the album, was the first one I actually heard when they released it as a single a few months back. It reminds me of a more thought out version of DGD’s last album, Acceptance Speech. Good to sing along to, good to get a crowd moving.
Now, the thing about this band is that they’ve always been able to seamlessly blend harsh, chaotic yelling with flowing, airy melodies that leave the listener feeling as though they’ve been thrown some of wild carnival ride. No track shows this better than “Shark Dad.” It starts off sounding like a warped love letter, or a relationship going astray, and quickly spirals down into a hectic, yet pinpointed attack of guitar and screams like a person realizing they have nothing left. When Jon Mess screams the lyrics, “She said I was something like a filler on her molar, a hibernating Siamese twin on her shoulder,” you can really feel the anguish of a love gone bad, and the anger of losing something you thought was special. In my opinion, this song is the best the record has to offer. It really showcases the spectrum of sounds this band can work flawlessly into one cohesive, yet freely moving swirl of emotion.
There’s one aspect of Dance Gavin Dance’s discography that I haven’t really touched on until now, and that’s the slight hip-hop feeling to it. I’d say closer to the way Gym Class Heroes utilizes hip-hop, rather than Run DMC or something like that. The thing about this is that it works, when you think about it. Jonny Craig, and now Tilian Pearson, always seemed to have a soulful, R&B vocal approach to me. It would pair perfectly to have some hip-hop blended into the mix. That’s the job of Will Swan, Dance Gavin Dance’s secret weapon. Swan handles the bulk of songwriting duties, and it shows in his particular way of writing guitar. On top of that, he also raps. In the past, we saw his rapping on tracks like “Powder to the People” and “Acceptance Speech.” This album showcases his skills in “Eagle vs Crows,” and it is probably the best he’s sounded rapping on any of their albums. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Will Swan solo rap album in the future, so keep on the lookout for that, dropping on his label Blue Swan Records (yes, that exists, and you should probably check it out for a few amazing bands).
The album closes with the track “Lost,” which effectively sums up everything I feel when I listen to a Dance Gavin Dance album. 1) This band grooves like nobody’s business, 2) Will Swan writes some of the sexiest riffs and solos, 3) Tilian Pearson has amazing range, and 4) Jon Mess gets better with every album, seriously. Lastly, I realize that it is nearly impossible for Dance Gavin Dance to make a bad album. Sure, some albums are better than the others, and the fact that they’ve changed members like a baseball team can deter some listeners. Through all that, they just keep coming back and giving their best. I would strongly suggest you pick up this album. 5/5