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  The Dismemberment Plan  
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I love The Dismemberment Plan, and i have the passion of a Convert: one fateful Friday night i took a chance to go see a band somebody had said were good. I was blown away, and ever since then i have listened to their music with something approaching constancy. Their previous album, Emergency & I is still one of the greatest things that i have heard in many a year.

What i like about the band is that they are all really good musicians. Each member seems to know what they are doing with their instrument, and they work well together. There is a real chemistry to their playing, as if the four of them are having a blast goofing off in the studio together. This attitude also translates to their live shows.

Another great thing about The Plan is that they know how to write a toe-tapping, hummable melody. All of their discs are full of enjoyable little songs that just get you going. And this album is not different.

Well, there is one slight difference: Change is a lot mellower than their previous albums. It's not melancholy, but it displays a certain slowness in the pace of the songs that many music critics refer to as "maturity". I don't know about that. Have The Plan "grown up" (whatever that means)?

What i suspect is that two years of almost constant touring have given them a different persepective on things. They are more interested in creating complex melodies and exploring their instruments than just banging on the fretboard and screaming. Is that maturity? Does maturity necessitate a less frenetic approach to life? I have read several reviews that hold such an opinion, and to this i must reply: if maturity is slowness, then i am most mature when i am hung over. Somehow, that just doesn't seem right.

As you can tell, i'm ranting. It has angered me that The Plan have been type-cast as a "fast and hard" band, and any attempt on their part to musically explore something else is viewed as a type of "selling out". Remember, the word "mature" is used as an insult by many rock critics -- rock is the music of the young, therefore, it is NOT the music of mature people. URGH! Okay, i'll shut up about this now. I just wish that more people would keep an open mind and listen to the song-crafting here.

Moving on .....

The lyrics on Change seem more introspective than before, and that's saying as lot for a band whose songs are all in the first person. These songs are still little stories sung as if about the vocalist, but the lyrics here seem more as if he is trying to reason through the junk is his head as opposed to just narrating the adventures in his life or dealing with heartbreak.

For example, the first line on the album is, "There is no heaven and there's no hell / No limbo inbetween -- I think it's all a lie". That's a powerful affirmation of atheism, but also a glipse into the mind and personality of the songwriter. The song is called Sentimental Man, and it's a wonderful little tune about how noone can really truly know anyone else. About how there is some core in your being that is totally yours, and people just have to trust you to a certain degree.

At least that's what i get out of it. Then again, since i got laid off i have been very introspective, and maybe i am projecting the pattern of my current thoughts onto The Plan's lyrics. Maybe.

At any rate, i must say that i really love the vocals on this disc. I have loved the lyricism of Travis Morrison before, but i think that he has really done well this time around. The man has a way with words! Plus, his voice is produced differently this time around. Producer J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) did a fine job of keeping Morrison's voice clear and out front while not having it dominate the album. It is in balance with the instruments, but at the same time it is clear and understandable. This is a feat of which i am very appreciative.

But the voice would be nothing without the rest of The Plan backing it up, writing catchy hook-laden melodies to go behind the vocals. Songs like The Face Of The Earth, Timebomb, and Pay For The Piano are all exceedingly well written and can't help but put you in a good mood.

That's another interesting thing that i noticed while listening to Change, that the songs on this album seem, on the whole, upbeat and positive. No, they are not all "Rah rah rah life is great let's pray", but rather there is some sort of affirmation that i get from Change. It's as if buried within their melodies and the vocals is a hidden message that life isn't as bad as Morrissey says it is, and you can go on living a day-to-day life. I think that the difference is that i listen to a lot of "moody" music that use minor chords extensively, and i think that this time The Plan use those chords very rarely. The end result just, well, it makes me happy. And that's a wonderful thing.

I like all of the songs here, but there is one song on this disc that far exceeds the others. It's called Timebomb, and they have been doing it in concert for at least a year. The guitarwork is simply exquisite, the drumming quite wonderful, and the keys are truly beautiful. It's one of The Plan's messy swirling songs, with all the instruments going beserk, and Travis wailing out his soul over top.

Another standout is what must be the quietest Plan song ever: Automatic. I like this because it is so different for them: Travis singing over strummed guitar, with eerie swirling keyboard noises in the background. It's nice, but quite slower than anything they have down in the past. I guess it's the most "mature" song.

I like this album. A lot. The Dismemberment Plan continue to impress.

And if you don't believe me, wait until they play your town. This is a great album, but it makes me ache for the sheer frenetic joy of The Plan on stage at The Echo wailing out these tunes at maximum volume. Maybe it will be a little slower, but it will be loud, and very very alive.

Related Links:

An evaluated discography of The Plan.


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