Album Review: The Dismemberment Plan
Tuesday October 23, 2001
The Dismemberment Plan
As album titles go, Change is a brazen one, promising evolution, progression and turning over a new leaf. For fans of a band as accomplished as Washington, D.C., indie-rock demigods The Dismemberment Plan, this is an exciting prospect, given the heights the band has reached before.
But if you're one of the thousands who bought Emergency and I, the Plan's almost universally acclaimed 1999 release, get ready for a shock - this is unquestionably a Change for the worse. The bloodless D-Plan on display here bears little resemblance to the quirky, funky group responsible for previous releases. Make no mistake - drummer Joe Easley and bassist/keyboardist Eric Axelson are still one of the most fluid rhythm sections in independent rock, as the off-kilter breakbeats underpinning "The Other Side" demonstrate. Singer Travis Morrison's lyrics are still erudite and insightful - just check "Other Side" or "Secret Curse." And the Plan still displays imagination far in excess of most of its peers.
Even if the ingredients are still there, Change is much, much less than the sum of its parts. Morrison shoulders much of the blame. Never the most compelling vocalist, he made do in the past by exploiting a gamut of vocal moods and styles. Here, however, he's settled into a reedy, monotonous whine that lacks both energy and passion, stumbling listlessly where he once would have skipped artfully. His malaise infects the rest of the band, slowing its former vitality to a plodding, uninspired crawl.
For a band with this much potential, a record this repetitive is a jarring slip backwards. Do yourselves a favor, D-Plan: ditch the mid-tempo monotony and Change back.