Sound — 8
Given how tenuous their earlier years were, it's relatively miraculous that Dance Gavin Dance managed to keep together after all this time. From originally suffering the brunt end of Jonny Craig's notoriously turbulent demeanor, to losing more members after 2008's self-titled album, DGD almost broke up entirely after the release of 2009's "Happiness," and have accredited avoiding that prospected breakup to reuniting with Craig in order to make 2011's "Downtown Battle Mountain II." That happy reunion would be short lived, though, before DGD would once again part ways with Craig due to - you guessed it - his turbulent demeanor.
However, DGD's life after the second-coming and split with Craig has been a more stable and fruitful one. Instead of getting another clean vocalist to sound as close to Craig's clean vocals as they could (as they did with Kurt Travis on 2008's self-titled album and "Happiness"), their newest and current clean vocalist, Tillian Pearson, brought forth a higher-rage singing style that gave DGD's sound a pop/R&B vibe to its post-hardcore base. This rubbed plenty of people the wrong way when he first joined the band to release 2013's "Acceptance Speech," but DGD continued to embrace this new stylistic addition in 2015's "Instant Gratification," so like it or not, it's here to stay.
Having locked into this post-hardcore/pop R&B hybrid sound in their last couple of albums, DGD stay the course in their seventh album, "Mothership." Covering their expected bases of post-hardcore gears (from the stampeding "Petting Zoo Justice," to the cheerier "Betrayed by the Game" and the multi-faceted "Man of the Year"), as well as some hints of funk rock in "Inspire the Liars" and "Here Comes the Winner," only little moments really differentiate from what was heard in last year's album, like the flute lead in "Young Robot," the synth melodies in the pop-inspired "Exposed," or the R&B/rap vocal delivery in "Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise" and "Chocolate Jackolope."
While not doing much different, "Mothership" does excel for its notable increase in tricky guitar riffs. The skills of lead guitarist Will Swan have always been one of the strongest aspects of DGD, but with Swan collaborating with a handful of other formidable guitarists to up the ante in this album (such as Aric Garcia of Hail The Sun, Martin Bianchini of Swan's side-project SECRETBAND, and former DGD guitarist Zachary Garren), the album wields an abundance of great riffs, from the frenetic tapping in "Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise," "Frozen One," "Deception" and "Philosopher King," to the noisy pedal-addled leads in "Flossie Dickey Bounce" and "Exposed."
Lyrics — 5
In the dual lyrical force of Pearson and harsh vocalist Jon Mess, Pearson tends to set an emotional tone to songs while Mess often gallivants with his words, either striking something good or something absurd. This dynamic is stronger than ever before in "Mothership," mainly due to Mess's lyrics reaching a new level of bizarre, heard in "Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise" ("I'll go in cryo and return to life, ho / And make a bisque, some tomato basil shit / Riding a rhino, pico de gallo"), "Here Comes The Winner" ("I shake my scepter fresh / And you smell like sphincter / I'll pass my credit check / And run through your sprinklers"), "Chocolate Jackolope" ("I couldn't wait to tap into the brain of my cat / And let him know he's my widdle baby meow meow boo"), and most inexplicably, the random animal fights detailed in "Petting Zoo Justice" ("Black cat, brown rat / Face off vs. Fruit bat... Green clam, yellow lamb / Fight purple face ram"). On Pearson's end, one can find a recurring theme of the precariousness of truth and lies in his sections throughout the album ("Thought I could trust you like no other / All of it was make believe" in "Deception"; "And I will never let this go so open wide / 'Cause I know you'll always know when you lie" in "Inspire the Liars"; "You've seen my lies and my shame exposed / But I know you know that what we got's no joke" in "Exposed"; "And if you prove a lying coward / Feel the wrath of higher powers" in "Man of the Year"), but it's not enough to balance out the heightened nonsense of Mess' lyrical contribution.
Overall Impression — 8
After so many years of uncertainty via an instable lineup that had tried to find its proper footing, DGD's recent stint of albums finally shows the band not worried with keeping things from completely falling apart and being able to focus on how they can refine their unique post-hardcore sound. And while the quick follow-up from last year's "Instant Gratification" has the album sticking close to the same general sound without many new surprises, "Mothership" certainly satisfies for its emphasis on guitar prowess, being one of their most skillful albums in DGD's catalog.