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Album Review: Dance Gavin Dance - Mothership

By Eli Shively, General Manager

[Rise; 2016]

Rating: 5/10

Key Tracks: "Philosopher King," "Betrayed by the Game"

“Post-hardcore” is pretty much the weirdest genre in all of music. On one hand, there’s bands like Fugazi, Bear vs. Shark and At the Drive-In, ones that earn unanimous praise from critics and casual listeners alike and are universally lauded for their creativity and influence. On the other, there’s the generation of bands that came after them — Chiodos, From First To Last and Silverstein to name a few, not to mention more modern acts like Of Mice & Men and Pierce the Veil — that most respectable fans of the style completely dismiss as the height of corny and cookie cutter.

On a completely different plane of existence, however, lies Dance Gavin Dance. Drawing from the more classic style of bands like At the Drive-In and Glassjaw, mixing in plenty of R&B, soul and funk influences and at the same bearing the undeniable mark of the “new” generation they came up in, Dance Gavin Dance is truly one-of-a-kind. They’re as divisive as they are widely appealing, hated as they are unconditionally loved, unexpectedly referenced by musicians from all walks of life as they are trashed on the internet by pissed-off thirty-somethings who saw Bear vs. Shark three times before the reunion dates.

That’s why every Dance Gavin Dance record becomes increasingly hard to judge with time. In this particular instance, with the release of their seventh full-length Mothership, some are lauding them as the most important post-hardcore band around while others are dismissing them as goofy Hot Topic trash for the umpteenth time. Is their shameless mixing of the sugary-est of pop hooks with blazing fast math rock riffs and screamed lyrics about cocaine delightfully inventive, or just ridiculous? Can we overlook that these are grown men writing songs with names like “Flossie Dickey Bounce?” What about that downright laughable “Hotline Bling”-inspired rap verse in “Chocolate Jackalope?" There’s a lot to take into consideration.

The answer isn’t as black and white as many would like it to be, either. Mothership, just like its predecessor Instant Gratification, is a record of hits and misses. The pure technical prowess and roaring aggression (thanks to guitarist Will Swan and “unclean” vocalist Jon Mess, the band’s cornerstone members) of tracks like “Philosopher King” and “Petting Zoo Justice” isn’t to be taken with a grain of salt, but neither are the disappointing moments — “Young Robot” and “Exposed,” to name a few, just don’t seem to hit the same kinds of thrilling highs.

It’s safe to say, then, that Mothership can’t either be classified as wholly “good” or “bad,” much to the chagrin of /r/posthardcore aficionados and angry scene veterans alike. They’ll pick and choose what they want to hear, the former championing Swan’s absolute mastery of his instrument and the latter scoffing at singer Tilian Pearson’s ear-splitting runs. Truth is, there’s just so much to take into consideration that the cohesion of the record is somewhat lost in the process. Dance Gavin Dance have become the post-hardcore equivalent of throwing every possible idea at the wall and seeing what sticks, and their success rate here is about 50/50.

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