Uncanney Valley Review

artist: The Dismemberment Plan date: 11/14/2013 category: compact discs
The Dismemberment Plan: Uncanney Valley
Released: Oct 14, 2013
Genre: Indie Rock, Alternative Rock
Label: Partisan Records
Number Of Tracks: 10
Over a decade since their last studio album, The Dismemberment Plan returns with their fifth studio album, which wraps up some of their earlier traits of being a humor-laden, ironic indie band with their later traits of being a serious alt-rock band.
 Sound: 7
 Lyrics: 5
 Overall Impression: 6
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overall: 6
Uncanney Valley Featured review by: UG Team, on november 14, 2013
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Perhaps not the most popular example of "ironic dance-punk," but certainly a great example, The Dismemberment Plan was founded in 1993. During their early years, their ethos as musicians was along the lines of "don't get serious; get silly." Their upbeat music, funky bass-lines, and jokey lyrics that were spoken rather than sung created a fun impression, and although they were an acquired taste, they earned a loyal following. It wasn't until their later albums "Emergency & I," and "Change" where The Dismemberment Plan started to stray away from their goofy demeanor and got serious; both musically and lyrically. It's been over a decade since their last release, but now the indie rock band is back with their fifth studio album, "Uncanney Valley." Opening with "No One's Saying Nothing," jingle bells, piano chords and light guitar chords mix to create a feel-good vibe, while the distorted bass provides some testosterone to keep it from sounding too twinkly. "Waiting" is a track with a comfy groove – something that would be played while the main character in a rom-com movie dances alone in their room. The fact that the song is about unreciprocated love only strengthens this characteristic. Frontman Travis Morrison delivers the heartache-riddled lyrics at a fast, tongue-twister pace, which treads the line between ingenious and insufferable – some may like it and others may not. The bridge is the apex for the song, where the instruments, vocals, and lyrics create a well-executed feeling of defiance and getting over that someone that didn't love you back. "Invisible" has a violin riff looping throughout the verses of the song, which is a non-discreet way to set the forlorn theme of the song, and ends up sounding tedious. The guitars don't play a dominating role until the solo, which is satisfying, though not mind-blowing. "White Collar White Trash" is the first song on the album to up the energy. The distorted bass-line leads the verses while the drummer goes to town on the cowbells (the expected Christopher Walken punchline has been redacted). The guitars take on a more vintage rock sound, and are much more interesting in this song than in the previous ones. However, in the choruses, the melody between the guitars and synths sound more like they're competing with one another rather than complementing one another. The verses in "Living in Song" are dominated with synthesizer instruments, giving it a new wave feel, but the choruses bring forth the alt-rock elements in full. The instruments in "Lookin'" do a fine job setting the tone for this "unlucky in love" song, but the fact that they all stay at a coasting pace throughout the entire 5-minute track makes the song feel like it's dragging on. The instruments get livelier in the next track, "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer," with an interesting bass-line, strong and pleasant guitar-lines, and the most energetic drum-line in the album. The drum-line stays admirable in the following track, "Mexico City Christmas." Once again, the synths take the wheel of this song, while the bass-line practices a "less-is-more" mentality. The swing-y rhythm in "Go and Get It" makes the song pop out from the rest of the album, while the catchy chorus makes it a prime candidate for singing along to. The album closes with another mid-tempo feel-good song, "Let's Just Go to the Dogs Tonight." The guitars play a complimentary role to the bass-line, while the splashy hi-hat rhythm in the drum-line possesses you to tap your toe to the beat. // 7

Lyrics: For those that are familiar with TDP's earlier works, you may get excited upon listening to the first track, when Morrison brings back his vocal style of speaking the lyrics rather than singing them – something that he hadn't done in his last couple of albums. But you'll only find that in "No One's Saying Nothing" and "Invisible," whereas he sings the lyrics in the rest of the album. Morrison also brings back the old, absurd humor found in TDP's old songs, though you'll only find it in "No One's Saying Nothing" and "White Collar White Trash," and it's also arguably not as witty as it used to be. The majority of the songs' lyrics in the album gravitate towards the done-to-death theme of being "lovesick," which, unless you're looking exclusively for that subject matter, starts to make the album uninteresting after a few songs in. But this makes songs like "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer" and "Mexico City Christmas" more interesting songs on the album because they're not about girl troubles. // 5

Overall Impression: The album provides a few keepers that are worth listening to again and again, but it's not worth the time listening to from front-to-back more than once. Some songs have one element that tends to spoil the song – whether it's the violin loop in "Invisible," or the monotonous chorus of "Let's Just Go to the Dogs Tonight." The album by itself doesn't provide enough variety of sounds and subject matter to be considered great, but if thrown into the mix of all of TDP's music, it adds a new ingredient to their salad of a discography. // 6

- Sam Mendez (c) 2013

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