There are are a handful of bands that somehow always manage to top their previous output with their latest output. These rare beasts push onward and upward with their new material without compromising a core-familiarity that’s been woven throughout their music since the start. With each album release it’s becoming apparent that Dance Gavin Dance are a part of this laudable group. After their last album Instant Gratification, Dance Gavin Dance could have gone anywhere and it more than likely would have been well received. luckily they chose to go above and beyond and release one of the best albums of their entire career, Mothership.
Mothership takes the pop elements that made Instant Gratification stand out while putting it alongside some of their heaviest material to date. This record has you going from a song like “Betrayed by the Game,” a track that could get radio play if it weren’t for the screaming that comes after the chorus so sweet it will rot your teeth, to a song like “Petting Zoo Justice” that kicks off with guitar feedback that leads into killer blast beats being yelled over by America’s number one absurd lyricist Jon Mess. Not only will you have heavier songs scattered among the more melodically inclined tunes across the record, but you’ll also see these melodic tracks that have sections that seem to be much heavier than prior DGD records. For example, “Frozen One” is a rather playful track that has these recurring series of punchy chugs peppered throughout. DGD have made quite a few playful songs in their career, but really starting to utilize heavier parts like this so late in the game adds a bit more weight to them and actually makes them heavier, especially because the band doesn’t have to rely on them to be interesting. There are also things included that have never been heard in the context of a DGD record before, such as the flute intro of “Young Robot.” These added elements and slight variations on an established formula really make all the difference when it comes to how Mothership will standout in their discography.
The other element that makes this record stand out is Tilian Pearson‘s vocal performance. Not to say that he performed poorly on his first two records with the band, but on Mothership he really gives it his all. There are times on the record where he reaches for a note just outside of his vocal range that gives his voice a gruff rasp and it sounds damn near perfect every single time. Whether he’s singing about telling someone something they want to hear on the intense/groovy/soaring ‘Inspire the Liars’ or screeching his heart out on the defeated, somber closer “Man of the Year,” you can tell that he’s finally locked in with the band in a way that Jonny Craig and Kurt Travis were unable to due to their lengths of time in the band. Hopefully he continues to perform with the band so we can hear him get better and better.
Though Tilian’s is specifically worthy of note, the whole band gives excellent performances on the album. As always, Will Swan decimates his intricate guitar parts, Matt Mingus kills on the kit, Tim Feerick keeps the chaos in line with his bass playing and Jon Mess provides the perfect chaotic vocal counterpoint to Tilian’s perfect and measured croon. These are all aided by what seems to be Kris Crummett’s best mix yet. As always with a DGD record, everything can be heard and has its place, but it would seem that this record is their most clear-sounding to date. It would seem that everyone went into this record with the mindset of making the best record humanly possible.
Seeing a band consistently top themselves is enough to bring a smile to any listeners face, but what turns it into a stupid grin is when you can tell just how the band are topping themselves. Dance Gavin Dance have done it by staying true to a sound that can’t be found every single place you aim an ear while making smaller changes record to record that end up paying off big time. It’s pretty phenomenal that a band who has cycled through vocalists, 2nd guitarists and bassists has managed to stay so true to a particular vision while continually tightening and refining what defines them. With Mothership, the band have truly outdone themselves and created a record that is not only a worthy addition to their discography that refines and expands upon their sound, but one that feels essential to their canon. Let this album abduct you and take you to a place far, far away from here.