The Dismemberment Plan
I remember it like it was yesterday. Spring '97. Coming to the end of my
fourth college year with a fifth still on the way. My family had recently
sold my childhood home and moved to a retirement community down by the Jersey
Shore. There was no truly direct way to reach this place from my school, so
many nights were spent experimenting with different routes through the
backwoods whenever I had to come "home".
Having no working tapedeck forced me to tune into the radio and Princeton U's
WPRB was always my main hit. A punk show called "Hey, You Kids, Get Off My
Lawn!" was hosted by two people who seemed to have an inordinate amount of
trivial knowledge about bands I'd never heard of in my life. My friends and
I considered ourselves to be musical know-it-alls. However, here were two
people spouting off facts and figures and spinning discs by groups I had
never, ever heard, read about or seen anywhere. While most of what they
played was obscure late '70's/early '80's stuff, this one night as I drove,
they played something new.
I had just taken the exit off of 195 and was making my way into the woodsy
backroads. Driving these roads was like entering the twilight zone; on
either end was civilization but for a good forty minutes, it was a spooky
ride with mucho foliage, no streetlights and miles of white trashy
accoutrements (trailer parks, abandoned churches, truck stop juke joints,
wondering deer). Magic was a-brewin' around.
All at once this crazy song came on the radio that changed my life. At this
particular point, music was starting to bore me and I was looking for
something new to get excited about. It all hit me this night, driving thru
the twilight zone.
Immediately two falsetto voices, slightly off-pitch with each other, moaned
breathlessly over a snarling bassline and a cymbal-free drumbeat. The voices
then turned into a smart-alecky speaking register which started yelping "He
said you Wish YEAHYEAHYEAHYEAHYEAHYEAHYEAH!!!!!!" ushering in the chorus with
loud guitars and shaved beats culminating in a "WHOAWHOAWHOAWHOAWHOA!!"
backed by what sounded like surface-to-air missile targeting computer systems
gone haywire. This record was in the process of flooring me and it was only
the first verse! What the HELL was this?!?! I laughed OUT LOUD as they hit
the second verse with more of the same to reassure me that I wasn't dreaming.
The bridge came; all music ceases suddenly leaving two guitars sliding down
a chromatic spiral calling to mind watching an imploding building crumble in
slow motion; just before the facade hits the bottom, the guitars slide back
up, the film reverses and you watch and hear it all again. This time around,
however, you see the crash as the music detonates like an angry bomb,
resplendant with angry guitar, malfunctioning beeps and whirrs and that
sneering bassline (as played by an organ).
I was so captivated and pumped by all this. I was giggling with each new
section. I HAD to know what this was. NO record had ever made me react like
this. I pulled the car over and searched frantically for something to write
with. All I could find was an eyeliner pencil (and I'll let all your sick
minds wonder why). The song ended as suddenly as it began. I sat there and
waited thru several songs, keeping careful count on my fingers until the DJ's
came on and broke the news.
The Song: That's When the Party Started
The Group: The Dismemberment Plan
The Record: " " " ...Is Terrified
The Label: Desoto Records
I had heard of NONE of these at the time. That was all to change.
The D-Plan obviously occupy a special place in my heart because they were the
introduction to a whole new musical world that I never knew existed. I
couldn't believe the DJ's when they told me they had seen the Plan live many
times. "WHERE????? Where the F#$K do these guys play?!?!?!" I screamed at
the radio. I was to find out big time that an untapped network of rock
existed outside the airwaves of Q104, off the boundaries of 120 Minutes,
outside the pages of SPIN and in venues more intimate than Irving Plaza.
With glee I found the Terrified album and became hooked. I looked for any
and every tidbit of info I could and found most of it on the web. I did find
where they played and went to as many shows as I could and was introduced to
many other cool groups. I could actually talk to these bands or send them an
email and they'd reply. It was something I wasn't used to but it made rock
music so much more personal and exciting. It was a whole new ballgame.
So let me just devote a little screen time to the record itself. You don't
have to know anything about the big wide indie rock multiverse to dig this
record. I won't give it all away but its a winner. Some things need to be
pointed out. What makes this band different from their underground brethren?
- A wide range of stylistic influences (unlike most pop punk groups, the
Plan draw from many different forms and genres, including: pop, punk, new
wave, r'n'b, hip hop and soul)
- Up front, in your face vocals (forget these weepy, whiney, droning,
monotone "emo-core" singers, Travis Morrison is a true rock Frontman,
singing and dancing his ass off)
- Fluid, soul-influenced bass playing (unlike most punk basshandlers who
merely supply bottom end to the whole shebang, Eric Axelson's fingers are
dripping with honey/soul and finger-lickin' grooves. You'll find no
misplaced slapping or popping; only harmonically interesting concepts and
tasty rhythms; one of the only truly original bassists around today)
- A frantic, exciting live show (powered by the insistent beating of Joe
Easley, a train-wreck on the verge kept in check by the chain hooked to his
bass drum and wrapped around his chair, the Plan's live shows are twice as
intense as their records. It is an incredible spectacle of pure energy that
leaves bodies sweaty and minds blown)
- Intelligent pop songwriting (besides the obvious "Ice of Boston", the
chorus of "This is the Life", with its off-beat bassline and arcing keyboard
harmonies, recalls the soul ballads of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell; the
final track, "Respect is Due" is an example of a few simple musical ideas
creating a stirring track about pride and a wounded heart)
- A Sense of Humor (I'm sick to death of these "serious", angst-ridden
groups who use their music as scream therapy sessions. The Dismemberment
Plan make no bones about their funny bones with a track like "Bra", an
adventure story with nods to the Mickey Mouse Club, Young MC and Rob Base
(!). "Its So You" is an anti-suicide song with a twist. The appropriate "Do
the Standing Still" is their tribute to the hundreds of arm-crossed,
cooler-than-thou indie rock audiences too uptight to let it all hang down and
bust a move. At the same time, the Plan is far more intelligent and complex
than the simple "Joke" bands they get compared to)
The Dismemberment Plan is NO novelty act. They aren't another group of
outcast artsy types with something to prove. Their music is a youthful
electric dance party. They are all about serious music while their attitude
is about serious fun. The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified is the perfect
introduction to their off-kilter worldview. It was a perfect introduction
into a real "alternative" music world for me. Pick this disc up, post-haste!
Written By: Sir Brian C.