Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Respect Is Overdue
The Dismemberment Plan: Change
"There is no Heaven and there's no Hell," intones
Dismemberment Plan frontman/chief lyricist Travis Morrison, thus opening Change,
the latest long player salvo from Washington, D.C.'s most exciting and
forward-thinking band. During the album's initial cut, "Sentimental Man," Morrison goes on to explain that he's an
"Old Testament kind of guy," and despite such contradictory logic, we
believe every word because of the conviction with which he wrestles such thorny,
The Plan has never sounded so focused, so sure of its
ability to explore the deeper truths lurking beneath the most mundane aspects of
everyday life. "Come Home," the centerpiece of Change, deftly
conveys a quiet sense of desperation associated with a person sitting at home,
waiting for a lover to return that the song makes painfully clear, never will.
The final cut, "Ellen and Ben," presents a gossipy story told from the
point of view of a character watching two friends become a couple, thus
irrevocably destroying the bonds all three shared.
Simple tales all, yet in the hands of Morrison and his
three counterparts (guitarist Jason Caddell, bassist Eric Axelson and drummer
Joe Easley), such little revelations take on a deeper resonance, certainly far
more satisfying and thought-provoking than prior Plan efforts. On 1999's Emergency
& I, Morrison sings of a Memory Machine that quite literally will
"wax our hearts to a blinding sheen to wash away the grief." By
comparison, on Change's second track, "The Face of the Earth,"
a man kisses a girl and then watches as she's inexplicably sucked from the
planet's surface, hurtling away from him at incredible speed. Yet the wordplay
imparts a deeper meaning, and illuminates a more mature Plan in turn, by
expressing the mixed feelings involved in grieving for someone he's only known a
short time. Having a person get blown from the face of the earth might be an
extreme analogy, but it wonderfully captures the ambiguity of new,
underdeveloped relationships that fail to pan out, or are snuffed out by
unexpected tragedy before attaining a higher degree of intimacy and trust.
Being the most contemplative of all Plan releases, Change
may frighten away fans of the band's earlier, more hyper-kinetic work. Fear not,
dedicated spaz-rock followers, Dismemberment Plan has not forgotten you. Tracks
like "Pay for the Piano" and the brilliantly executed "Time Bomb"
cater to those partial to the Plan at its most rock-oriented. Overall the
bizarre time signatures and erratic tempo changes the band is known for have
been toned down in favor of a more balanced, cohesive and satisfyingly
That said, the album is not without its missteps.
"Automatic" borrows a little too heavily from earlier efforts, like Emergency
& I's "The Jitters" and, to a lesser degree, 1997's The
Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified's masterful closing epic "Respect is
Due." What ultimately elevates Change to one of the year's best
releases (and easily the Plan's finest work to date), however, is the maturity
of the band's musicianship (evident throughout), and Morrison's insightful,
fresh, and always-surprising lyricism.
Change may not always be easy, but, in this
instance, it most definitely turns out for the better.
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