Artist: Dance Gavin Dance
Album: Instant Gratification
When I told my dad I was going to be working on a review for post-hardcore legends Dance Gavin Dance’s latest album, his response was an astounded “wow, they’re still around?” Indeed, the Californian quintet have been around for about as long as I’ve been involved with any kind of “heavy” or hardcore-influenced music—they were the first “-core” band I ever saw live, and since then, have contributed nothing but strong offerings to fans of the genre worldwide—albeit, some stronger than others. Changing vocalists more times than some people change their socks, the creative crew from California are back with Instant Gratification, their sophomore release featuring clean vocalist Tilian Pearson, and arguably their strongest and most relevant release in years.
Dance Gavin Dance are still awe-inspiringly talented with their instruments; after all, some things never change. Instant Gratification is composed of the same building blocks the group have employed since their inception. Matt Mingus’ drumming is still bouncy enough to make any listener want to start dancing, while punchy enough to compliment the band’s heavier proclivities. “The Cuddler” is a perfect example–light and dancy one second, but boisterous and splashy the next–while “Death of a Strawberry” sees his softer side and “We Own the Night” is Mingus redefining “whirlwind.” However, where previous releases favorited moments of frantically-fretted chaos, Instant Gratification sees bassist Tim Feerick and guitarist Will Swan working in perfect harmony to bathe the listener in boatloads of harmonious, happy fretwork. “Legend” is as mellow as the band has been in recent memory, while even “The Cuddler” and it’s sporadic zeal is still carefully written and cohesive, rather than just a bucket of dissonance overturned on the listener’s head. Perhaps the most sublime part of Instant Gratification, however, comes from the band’s gimmicky love for R&B and funk, where Feerick’s bass is groovy and catchy and Swan’s fretwork is minimal (but his rapping is far from it). For listener’s craving this, “Eagles vs. Crows” is a brilliant example, as is the climax to “On the Run.” Moments like these are brilliant, even if they seem to draw attention to the relatively quiet mixing of Swan’s otherwise supreme guitar skill.
When I first heard Dance Gavin Dance, what struck me first wasn’t the catchy fretwork or the masterful musicianship behind every track—it was the vocal element. At first, Dance Gavin Dance were “that band with the incredible singer.” Thanks to Pearson, they still are–and Jon Mess’ manic, hellish scream has grown stronger with each release he has been on. Together, Pearson and Mess reign on Instant Gratification with the band’s strongest vocal performance since Downtown Battle Mountain. From the first softly sung syllables of “Death of a Strawberry,” or the bold chorus of “On the Run,” Pearson has the listener hooked—and Mess’ out-of-left-field shouts and screams add surprise elements to every track, adding a bit of harsh energy and enthusiasm that veteran Dance Gavin Dance fans will surely crave.
In short, Instant Gratification lives up to its name. Where the band’s previous two releases felt slightly lackluster, their sixth and most recent one is the burst of boldness and color that their fans–and the genre–truly needed. If the catchiness of “On the Run” and “Death of a Strawberry” doesn’t do the trick, maybe he dark heaviness of the ferocious “Shark Dad” will. Instant Gratification sees the band borrowing tactics and tones from their past releases and kicking them up a notch, adding an extra shot of tenacity and a couple hundred milligrams of caffeine to keep the listener wide awake and very addicted. Where several fans were likely expecting the soundtrack to a dying band using up their last couple tricks, that is far from what they get—which is indeed Instant Gratification.
For Fans Of: Stolas, A Lot Like Birds, Emarosa, Idlehands
By: Connor Welsh