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ALBUM: Dance Gavin Dance – ‘Instant Gratification’
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ALBUM: Dance Gavin Dance – ‘Instant Gratification’

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Judging what you’re going to get from a Dance Gavin Dance album has historically been made impossible by the group’s infamous revolving door approach to its personnel, let alone their distinctly muso take on post-hardcore.

But ‘Instant Gratification’ is a new beast – the loss of rhythm guitarist Josh Benton aside it’s been recorded by the same musicians as its predecessor, and crucially the same two vocalists. Mainstay screamer Jon Mess has of course brought edge to the band’s songs for most of their existence, but the cherubically voiced Tilian Pearson still has much to prove after a lukewarm response to his contributions to ‘Acceptance Speech’. Stability has been hugely rewarding and resulted in as well-realised an album this time around as DGD has perhaps ever produced, incorporating a mind-boggling number of ingredients into a potent sonic stew.

There’s elements drawn from each of their previous releases, not least the psychedelic fizz that was brought to the fore on 2009’s ‘Happiness’, but it ducks direct comparison to either of any of them. Where “Shark Dad” and single “Stroke God, Millionaire” bring a heavier feel, “Something New” balances attack with it’s optimistic sung refrains and the jazz rock sections of “The Cuddler” employ the chords from “Call Me Maybe” of all things. Will Swan’s vibrant clean guitar rhythms have always set this group apart and continue to do so, as does the sheer levels of sound packed into each track to the point they feel they could collapse at any moment. The rap Swan drops on “Eagle vs. Crows” would sound ridiculous on any other band’s album, here it’s just another layer of spice.

With the brilliant Kris Crummet producing the chaos is vibrant and colourful, giving scope to the high drama and whiz pop percussion on “We Own the Night” and the fittingly massive “Death of a Strawberry”, bringing and end to the Strawberry Swisher series. He also brings the most out of Pearson’s cleans, who this time around has wholly justified his recruitment with some beautiful, if probably divisive airy, sky-high melodies. Mess and he hold the insanity of album highlight “On the Run” together with nonsensical screamed hooks (“bugs don’t matter”, apparently) and sugary choruses respectively. They’ve developed into a heavyweight vocal tag team, and backed by quality musicians take the opportunity to show it.

There’s a lot to get one’s head around when listening to ‘Instant Gratification’, and while it does live up to its title with some surprising immediacy there is at times a little too much going on to ever really appreciate, especially considering the very limited runtime of most of the songs (the majority hovering around the three minute mark). Moreover, though the irreverent approach to heavy music that the band has always taken remains an exciting novelty, it does mean there’s an occasional lack of weight to proceedings. Dark and epic, “Variation” has a sense of occasion absent elsewhere, and it’s interesting to see the typically flippant group get serious – something that would have added an extra level of enjoyment to their sixth record.

If this is finally going to prove the definite lineup of Dance Gavin Dance, they’ve given themselves an arsenal of killer music to draw from. ‘Instant Gratification’ is an aptly named set of powerful songs that are both immense fun to listen to and packed to the brim with musical flair. Old issues endure, but others have been resolved and the result is an album that distils the essence of the band to a fun, fervid forty-three minutes.

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