The Dismemberment Plan always seemed to me like a band that circumvented a lot. Rather than being original, they were almost so daringly and mind-bogglingly unoriginal, or extant, to use a better term, that they endeared instantly through familiarity, across the board, with almost all people who experienced their music. So that if it brings people together indeed, it’s unification around something that’s very valid and that’s very respectful of what has come before, and has worked.
Punk rock certainly seems rolled into what they do on Emergency, and Morrison’s vocal heroics’ habit of shouldering the entertainment load lends itself to this just fine. The songs have the syncopated rudiments of Motown or The Stooges, the shape, meaning structure and sentiment, of Clash songs, and volume of prevailing abrasive punk like Black Flag or Strung Out. Morrison seems to have a knack for being the glue that melds the music as well, and, though it is entertaining to think of just the other three members belting out these arrangements by themselves, it’s hard to envision them actually doing it without their particular frontman in tow.
Change, from 2001, is the only Dismemberment Plan album appearing between Emergency and I and this year’s Uncanney Valley. Morrison made at least one solo album during that time in between, which I remember getting dissed pretty bad.
Change, though, interestingly, marks just that, and starkly so, from Emergency and I, in the way of Morrison’s vocal procedures — whereas raucous roller coaster rides on Emergency like “Memory Machine” and “I Love a Magician” bend ear drums with tenacious shrieking straight out of the spirited punk rock textbook, Change finds him careful and meticulous, melodious, measured and approachable. All of this led to heaps of glory and props getting heaped on to Change in various arenas for discussion of the arts, in the wake of its release.
Uncanney Valley, as one would assume, continues the development of a mellower vocal style, and, obviously, this should go nowhere in divesting it critical acclaim. It needn’t. The spirit even of Emergency is summoned on these jams, which are busy, robust and lively, punchy and pungent. Overall, it’s a great comeback album: a sense of humor is infused into enough moments to make the listener realize Morrison has been paying attention to everything, and how ridiculous it is (closer “Let’s Just Go to the Dogs Tonight” docilely precipitating this discourse), and the tunes themselves almost invariably bring either visceral climax or valid, well-earned serenity. The band’s sense of rhythm still shines through, making for a listen that’s both danceable and soothing, as well as artistically refreshing. Listening to Uncanney Valley, you’d never know that the members of the band were in their mid- to upper-30’s. And at times, I wonder if they even know either.