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