Dance Gavin Dance

Happiness

Written by: TL on 25/06/2009 23:21:35

Many were the scenesters who prophesied, that after parting with hot shot lead singer Johnny Craig, Dance Gavin Dance would descend from the pinnacles of hype as rapidly as they had gotten there on the back of their debut "Downtown Battle Mountain". After all, Johnny was a rare phenomenon, so how were they going to bounce back? What were they going to do? Well what they did do was employ new singer Kurt Travis, record pretty much everything they had finished, and release it as what's now called "The Death Star Album" to let everyone know they were alive. Then they set out to tour and pen a new record, one that was released very recently, bearing the name "Happiness".

Now after listening to "The Death Star Album", we were all left with some questions. The record was a ragtag, hit'n'miss effort championed by some stellar highlights and breathtaking guest performances, yet it also had its share of filler, and as the world's jaw was dropped as an effect of Johnny Craig's new endeavors in Emarosa, opinions were divided as to whether or not Travis was fit to bear his mantle. These questions however, are answered in a resounding manner on "Happiness". First off, none who's laid ears on this record can still be in doubt about Kurt Travis. His performance can't be compared to Craig's, because where Craig is completely caught up in his singing, dripping strained passion from every phrase, Travis weaves dazzling notes of such softness and seamless ease that it is simply out of this world. It seems that if you put this kid in front of a studio mic, he could sing the phone book and still sound amazing. Personally, I'm willing to say he's got the most exciting voice in the scene right now, so congratulations on that Kurt.

The other question, whether or not DGD can write a record's worth of consistent material, is also silenced, for as far as I can hear, there are only two tracks out of ten here that fall below the high standards otherwise laid down by the other eight. The eight that are not only great, rather I'd go for a phrase like "mind boggling". You see DGD are often lumped under a label with bands like A Skylit Drive, BlessTheFall and other similar nu-screamo (just made that up) bands, and nothing - nothing - could be less justified. The sexily twisting and turning song structures and cheekily jazzy guitars of this record (think The Fall Of Troy's second album) are as far as can be from the pretense and overly theatrical approach of the epic-core (that too) bandwagon.

What you get here are songs that change with ease, from The Fall Of Troy-ish guitar wizardry into "almost-R'n'B" songs, sometimes frantic but somehow still always subtle and sweet, like honey pouring into your ears, while the band occasionally stops to piss all over the traditional verse-chorus-verse formula. It's not that they don't use it at all, they just do it to stunning effect when they choose to. Just listen to the title track for an example of how the formula is filled with such brilliant parts that it flows by in a stream of delight without you even noticing the structure of it. I could simplify the sound of it by saying that, much like Closure In Moscow did recently, DGD take an unusual, soft and sexy style of instrumentation, crown it with fantastic vocals and come up with something that just sounds fresh in a genre where almost everything else sounds dated - I could say that, but really, all I should need to ask you is to listen to the album a couple of times. Your ears should do the rest, as they succumb to the seductive power of songs like "NASA", "Carl Barker", "Strawberry Swisher Pt. 1" or "Tree Village" - and speaking of "Tree Village" is that the second album opener in a row from these guys that take off with a hauntingly unique guitar part? I think it is people!

Is there a downside? Well, yes, you could fairly accuse DGD for being a rather unfocused lot, as both their expression, varying from song to song as it does, and their seemingly strange lyricism can feel like it is a bit all over the place at times. To that I can only say that it's a price I'm willing to pay for something that sounds this fresh. This is not one of those overly serious albums after listening to which you will feel like you took home some big and cohesive point. It's an album full of fun and it's an album for the hips and for the groin and that is very much okay with me. It's a quirky, floaty experience that impresses while estranging, kind of like the last Circa Survive record, except it feels as much like a party as an attack of emoness. So yeah, I might recently have said that Closure In Moscow's "First Temple" was the best record I'd heard so far this year, but I have a feeling that a long way down the road, this baby is going to outlast that. Awesome!

9

Download: Tree Village, Happiness, Carl Barker,
For The Fans Of: Circa Survive, The Fall Of Troy, Emarosa, Closure In Moscow,
Listen: myspace.com/dancegavindance

Release Date 09.06.2009
Rise Records

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