Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: May 15, 2007
In retrospect, I will go ahead and say Downtown Battle Mountain remains Dance Gavin Dance's magnum opus. Outside issues and personal vendettas aside, no other Dance Gavin Dance album feels this real and hits this hard. Out of all of the band's albums, this is the one that seems to cause the most controversy, much in part due to Jonny Craig's problems but also for how the album and its lyrics came about. Considering how much little attention and appreciation the lyrics to Downtown Battle Mountain have gotten, I think acknowledging the possibility that this is a concept album is necessary in fairly evaluating it as a whole.
There aren't many details available, but Jon Mess has said that the album has absolutely no meaning and that him and Jonny wrote their lyrics separate with no relation to each other. He says Jonny came up with his lyrics at the studio right before they were set to record, and on top of that he was drunk. Given Mess' sarcastic nature we may never know how much of that is true, but either way it sets the stage for an interesting theme the whole album follows.
Due to Mess' screaming style and Jonny soaring for the high heavens while under the influence, many lyrics are difficult to distinguish, even for the band (since Jonny freestyled his parts, the original lyrics were never written down). However, after careful listening the main themes of a slowly deteriorating relationship and the constant doubt of whether there is meaning in the relationship are revealed. This is seen through some of the album's ridiculous lyrics, the intro track, and "Surprise! I'm From Cuba, Everyone Has A Brain," which transitions into the outro track with the repeated phrase "I believe there's meaning, no I believe there's nothing."
Sound wise, the album plays like it's split into two halves, the second half beginning with the song "Antilion." While songs in the first half like "And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman" and "It's Safe To Say You Dig The Backseat" do project their share of emotion and heartache, they come off as positive songs where the singer is still optimistic a resolution can be reached. They each have their own place, but share enough in common to warrant being grouped together.
Conversely, the second half plays like there's a massive black cloud of doubt and frustration rolling in, with a storm of built up emotions just waiting to be released. Lines like "she gave you willingly" and "one night I wake with these lost loves" coupled with "now it all takes shape, I won't go until you follow" show how even despite exponentially growing negativity, the singer cannot give up. "Surprise! I'm From Cuba" and the outro "12 Hours, 630 Miles" are the vehicles for this. Jonny Craig's opening line of the former, "oh look up girl, show me what you have to use," displays he's aware of his most likely fate: not being able to shake off his emotional ties with the girl in question. The outro shows that while the singer has grown from everything he has been put through, he still wants to be everything right with what the significant other should looking for in a companion, claiming "I am your faith."
All things considered, Downtown Battle Mountain is a great album. Its cliche to say, but the album is greater than the sum of its parts. Jon Mess' lyrics are as erratic as his changing vocal style has been from album to album, and his screaming here leaves much to be desired. That said, I can't imagine any of his parts being screamed by anyone else and having their effect on the songs remain as important. The drums never truly stand out and the bass is nonexistent, but it's clear this is done to ensure the spotlight remains on Jonny Craig's vocals and guitarist Will Swan's riffs, and deservedly so. DBM is far from perfect, but the band masterfully uses its weaknesses to vividly paint the picture of a shaky and uneven relationship/break up. The band most likely will never admit to this concept, but that too would play into the idea of getting the listener to ponder the question whether there is meaning or if there is nothing in their own personal affairs.
this was a quickly written review that obviously didnt touch on much of the actual music, but think of it as a supplement to previously written reviews on DBM; i mainly wanted to speculate on the lyrics since it really hadnt been talked about much
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