“Next it’s the pinnacle of me being cynical // Can I be the lynch pin compelling to judge a lottery // Baggy and awfully, bumpy and blistery // Brutally homeless and fluffy”
Few who are familiar with Dance Gavin Dance are unaware of the drama surrounding on-again-off-again front man Jonny Craig and other members of the band (Wikipedia actually has a pretty funny table citing which members were recorded on any given album). However, like a rebellious high school girl, DGD has taken back their bad-boy vocalist (fresh out of rehab I’ll have you know; good for him) and put out something, well…brilliant.
Their fourth studio album, Downtown Battle Mountain II is an obvious reference to the first album recorded with Jonny Craig as clean vocalist (Downtown Battle Mountain, 2007). Two albums were released during the period of Craig’s absence from the band, self-titled Dance Gavin Dance in 2008 and Happiness in 2009, and both albums have an entirely different sound from the precedent that Downtown Battle Mountain set. In 2011, Dance Gavin Dance has re-solidified their membership into somewhat of a reunion of the original members. Downtown Battle Mountain II is an appropriate title for an album whose sounds reach back to the early days of the band.
The parallels between the original DBM and the sequel are fairly amazing. The presence of Craig and original screamer John Mess seem to wipe the last two albums off the board. Stylistically it’s as if DGD hasn’t changed a bit since 2007. Of course anyone who has heard Happiness or the self-titled album would tell you otherwise.
But we wouldn’t want to listen to Downtown Battle Mountain II if it was just a clone of its predecessor, now would we? Downtown Battle Mountain II has polished a much heavier style into something smoother. The trademark technical guitars are still there, though the distortion has been traded for a clean, jazzier sound. This album relies less on driving fast drum rhythms, and more on a steady groove from all instruments, aided by the famous R&B sound of Craig’s clean vocals. The raw screams of John Mess are still there, however, providing a sandpaper finish to the otherwise smooth melodies. DGD continues to change it up by having guitarist Will Swan make an appearance as a rapper in “Heat Seeking Ghost of Sex” and “Priviously Poncheezied.”
Lyrically, Craig has developed as a songwriter. Though most of the songs are about love, girls, and sex (not uncommon, especially in the given genre), the lyrics are far more eloquent than on previous albums.
Overall, I would highly recommend this album. Dance Gavin Dance presents a wholly unique, and rather unorthodox sound, but they pull it off with flying colors. This music has a fairly wide appeal but I would especially recommend it to fans of Sleeping With Sirens, Circa Survive, and Decoder.
- Review by Alex Messick