Dance Gavin Dance – Happiness
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: June 9, 2009
Dance Gavin Dance’s Happiness nears its midway point; “Happiness” just ended with the album’s uproarious mixture of prog guitars and Me-So-Angry hollering. “Self-Trepanation”, which is actually a really icky thing, comes next with its club hopping effects and angsty singing: “No one believes me / They’re always on your side / Every time.” And it’s good and it’s loud and I like it. But at the same time I feel like I was abducted by aliens, placed at an alien dinner table, and then served human liver. Cannibalism’s not usually my thing, but in this particular metaphor there’s a surly alien pointing a Lazer Gun at my penis. (These aliens did their research. I’ll do anything if you point a weapon at my penis.) And much to my chagrin, the human liver tastes like f**king Chicken Parmesan. I eat the whole thing. Then I ask for seconds.
Just so we’re clear: The Chicken Parm-ish liver is Happiness. The surly alien is my paralyzing fear of commitment. Cannibal Blake is the version of Blake that doesn’t search YouTube for Neil Diamond covers.
I think the most important lesson I learned during my abduction, err, time with Happiness is that you just won’t know until you try. Jonny Craig’s scene persona, coupled with an addiction to everything from Black Tar Heroin to human fetuses, left me with a bad vibe. Downtown Battle Mountain was just too busy, and that’s saying something when referencing a band as schizophrenic as DGD. With those troubles thankfully behind them, the newest version of DGD could finally explore their unabashed love of (among other things) melodic hardcore, dance music, prog, and pop-punk. Adding to this newfound success is Will Swan, easily the band’s best screamer. His throaty roars never hinder the hasty playing of his or Zac Garren’s guitars. But it’s the songs like “NASA” and “Carl Barker”, where every element meets in the middle, that create the most fist pumpage. But hold on! Newbie Kurt Travis ain’t no afterthought. Whether it’s over Matt Mingus’ double bass pumps or Garren’s Fall Of Troy guitar wizardry, Travis can pull shapes with the best of them. For a band like this, where the music changes so rapidly, it really falls on the vocalists to make songs memorable. Without their strong contributions, the insanity would be wholly unlistenable.
Lyrically, well, maybe I’m out of the loop. There’s a juvenile hatred for all the scene girls DGD wade through at every show: “Beautiful girls with no ambition / Piling hair at the fucking salon.” Expressing distaste is well and good, but a line like “Please girl stay until the morning / We can have some coffee / You can do my laundry” doesn’t make for very authentic songwriting. The band would probably admit that lyricism isn’t exactly their focus (Swan’s screaming is usually unintelligible). Not surprisingly it becomes very hard to avoid said stupidity on scream-less party anthem “Don’t Tell Dave” or on the toned down rock of “Strawberry Swisher Pt. II.” Short of comparing the band’s heaviness to some sort of aural ozone layer, I’ll just say that Dance Gavin Dance is best served loud.
Maybe you won’t see me at a Dance Gavin Dance concert anytime soon. On the other hand, maybe you will. If I only did what was expected of me I’d be a balding environmental lawyer living in Akron. So even if you don’t take a chance on Happiness, try a new band from a strange genre. Who knows how it might taste.
Recommended If You Like: Chiodos, The Fall of Troy, Cuba Gooding Jr. movies, Enter Shikari, Incredible Hulk comics, Ema-whosah?
Still head and shoulders above the Rise genericore roster, but this album didn't really do it for me. Neither did their last, but I like the direction their sound went a bit more this time. Still nothing too memorable, they're cursed to live in Jonny's shadow.
Between this and Death Star I can say that I'm happy with where the band is. Death Star gave me the more aggressive in your face DGD and Happiness is a more experimental DGD but by no means bad. Good job with this Blake.
I am sure that not many agree with me, though I find this album and the Death Star album(self titled) head and shoulders above Downtown Battle Mountain and the EP. Kurt Travis is a better fit and Will makes the screaming somewhat better.