Dance Gavin Dance are not a band that can be easily put into a particular box or category. They rode in on the wave of new school post-hardcore bands, but have undeniably shown that they have far more longevity than those bands they arrived with. Going through various vocalists and lineup changes has not deterred them, as evidenced by the fact that they are on their seventh release as a unit, Instant Gratification. This is their second release with vocalist Tilian Pearson (Ex Tides of Man) and showcases the band in their tightest, catchiest and arguably best form to date.
Each vocalist for the band has brought something different to the table. Jonny Craig had his R&B/soul stylings, Kurt Travis brought his funk/groove inspired vocal lines and Tilian has brought his heavy pop influence. The pop influence contained within Tilian’s vocals is the driving force that surges through this record’s veins. The title Instant Gratification seems to be a nod to just how poppy this record is. This poppy sound is nothing new for the group, however, as it sees a few ideas from Tilian’s first record with the band (Acceptance Speech) fully realized/fleshed out into a cohesive and larger than life experience.
The prominence of the pop influence is not something to fear, though. It does not interfere with the complex guitar work the band is known for and does not feel like it is outside the realm of their sound. From the opener ‘We Own the Night’, it is clear that you’re in for a masterful blend of everything the group can throw at you. The soaring opening vocal lines give way to thunderous drums, grooving bass, technical guitar and Jon Mess‘ lyrical exhibitions. Each song on the tracklist has something for every fan of the band. If you want huge choruses there are songs like ‘On the Run’, ‘Death of a Strawberry’ and ‘Something New’. Never before this album would you think that the words ‘sugar daddy’ would be something constantly stuck in your head set to music. If you want energetic tracks there is ‘The Cuddler’, ‘Eagle vs. Crows’ and ‘Lost’. The only thing the band does not do often on this record is slow down. It really seems like they are firing on all cylinders for the entire duration of the album. This is the result of Tilian settling into the front-man position and gelling with the members of the band in such a way that it seems as though they are operating as a collective, pinging off one another with no need to question what one person is doing or going for because they each already know. Where one instrument lets up, there is another that pushes harder. The band have always had an incredibly handle on dynamics and that really shines here.
The album is not without its left hooks that keep you intrigued. ‘Awkward’ goes from crooning to hard-hitting breakdown in no time, which is a treat because true blue breakdowns are few and far between in the bands body of work but when they are done they are super effective. ‘Eagle vs. Crows’ hits you with a playful rap verse from guitarist Will Swan and though they have had rap verses on their last three albums, each time it happens it feels special and different. They always do it on their own terms without sounding cheesy, unlike bands who have tried to shoehorn in raps. The band have an uncanny ability to throw in things that other bands would be scoffed at for without their fans batting an eye, which is a testament to just how progressive they are.
Something worth noting is that the mix on Instant Gratification is different from any DGD record before it in order to accommodate the pop element’s heavy inclusion. It puts extreme emphasis on the clarity of both vocalists without detracting from any of the other instruments. Everything has its place and can be heard without having to strain your ears. Also, the bass is the funkiest its been since Happiness. Kristofer Crummett has always done their records justice, but for this one he really deserves a pat on the back.
Seven records into their discography and Dance Gavin Dance still has no problem being different and showing just how much longevity they have as a band. With Instant Gratification they have crafted their most diverse, cohesive and catchy collection of songs to date. This record is their most accessible without removing what made them such a hit in the first place and that is an accomplishment worthy of praise.
Dance Gavin Dance’s Instant Gratification gets…