Dance Gavin Dance – Downtown Battle Mountain II
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Hard to believe it’s only been four years since we took a trip to Downtown Battle Mountain. With all of the records in between – not to mention the drama – it feels like it’s been quite a long ride. With all the Jonny Craig drama buzzing around lately, I think it’s safe to say we all know the chaos, so I’ll leave it out of the review, and get to the music.
Despite the myriad of member changes and switches, DGD have grown a lot in the past four years, most notably apparent on their last 2009 outing, Happiness. However, Kurt Travis, the vocalist from that record, is now out, replaced by the original Craig, and Mess is back on screaming vocals. The result of these changes: another trip to Downtown Battle Mountain.
To be honest, there’s hardly any denying Jonny Craig can sing. His vocals shine throughout Downtown Battle Mountain II, as the original contrast between his clean singing and Mess’ chaotic screaming is back. Despite the many years, the two still complement one another excellently (“Elder Goose”). Likewise, guitarist Will Swan, retiring his screaming to Mess, shines throughout the record, as the guitar play is a superb highlight on II, evident throughout the raucous “Need Money.” Thus, the musicianship of the members is concise and complementary, as each member plays off one another’s talents to form this renewed whole.
The opening “Spooks” continues right where DBM left off, with Craig’s soft voice leading before Mess’ abrupt screams take control over Swan’s admirable guitar work. Mess carries the fire throughout the track, as his screams dominate in every aspect. Controversy will thrive as a result of “Pounce Bounce,” as Mess screams “what’s it like to be an atheist? / Are you okay with suicide?” in what is arguably the most divisive number on the record, despite featuring memorable harmony between Craig and Mess.
A sequel to a sequel, the robot’s return on “The Robot with Human Hair Pt. 2 ˝” may be the best installment thus far. Lyrics of “if you can’t read my texts then get a mind read phone” are rather intriguing and humorous, while Craig displays his best vocal performance on the record. DGD hits the brakes on “Thug City” through Craig’s soaring vocals and Swan’s strengthened guitar. Craig’s singing of “hey there, pretty girl, don’t hide what’s inside” is addictive, inciting replay value.
Despite being a tad monotonous, Downtown Battle Mountain II never seems to drag on, as the softer “Elder Goose” is a change of pace, while “Heat Seeking Ghost of Sex” breeds chaos and destruction, courtesy of Matt Mingus’ drumming and Mess’ haunting screams. Likewise, “Blue Dream” has A Dream Is A Question You Don’t Know How to Answer written all over it, making it not fit as a DGD track, but rather as a Jonny Craig solo track. Mess’ screams do add a different touch to it, but still, the track just doesn’t fit.
High frequency guitars strive throughout the penultimate “Swan Soup.” A bipolar number, the track abruptly changes from destructive screaming to soaring clean vocals, all carried by Swan’s backing guitar play, a highlight in every aspect. Honesty bleeds throughout the ultimate “Purple Reign” as Craig sings, “Oh father, I’m a danger,” while Mess quickly picks up the pace. Craig and Mess continue to battle with each other throughout the track, each complementing the other’s skills – as Craig’s vocals soar, Mess’ screams destroy. As the track closes, it’s clear the beauty of Downtown Battle Mountain II is in these moments of chaotic discord, with screaming and singing battling.
Despite all of the drama and news, DGD’s return to form proves to be a splendid return at that. The growth of the members – musically, clearly not personality wise – deserves every notice, as each member of Dance Gavin Dance work together to create DBM2. The result: a cohesive record in what is arguably the best DGD outing to date.
I've been waiting for this since Downtown Battle Mountain to be honest.
I've listened to every new DGD cd but none of them kept my attention as much as DBM.
But DBMII totally lived up to expectations.
Good review too, well written and said