The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanny Valley


The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanny Valley
Partisan Records
October 15, 2013

What It Sounds Like:  How does anyone even begin to describe the sound of The Plan?  Let’s try the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious approach:  TDP, at their prime, was an indie-rockish exploration with experimental keyboards, slight post-hardcore stylings, and noise rock mania, with bits of R&B and half spoken-word vocals, all filtered through a machine that was purely pop at its core.  Uncanney Valley, their reunion record, is a much safer effort, but still satisfies.

Sometimes you give me the very same look
You gave me when we first met
The very same eyes / The very same smile
How could I forget?
The background is always different and the hairdo is of its day
But the look is eternal and it’s everlasting
And it always blow me away

What did you say? / What did you say? / What did you say?
I was just lookin’

Just like a painter returns to his muse with his hands more slow and sure
Once he wanted to paint her naked  / Now he just wants to paint her
Gone is the Mona Lisa mystery and now in its place
Is a love they know they can’t deny / Written all over her face

What did you say? / What did you say? / What did you say?
I was just lookin’

Sometimes you give me the very same look
You’ve been giving me all these years
And every time you do it I think to myself
What a good thing we have here
I’m lucky that you love me / Cause my luck is not that great
And you seem to be made of horseshoes / It’s like you’re blessed by fate

What did you say? / What did you say? / What did you say?
I was just lookin’

Years ago, I used to shop at a record store in Greenville, South Carolina called Earshot.  Tons of new and used records at great prices; I loved that place.  One day, I remember picking up a publication that they printed every quarter that simply talked about new bands, old band, reissues, and anything else music-related that they wanted to print.  In that one issue, I remember reading about three bands that I had never heard of before:  Rocket From The Crypt, Wolves In The Throne Room, and The Dismemberment Plan.

That was a good day.  I can’t believe there was a day in time when I didn’t know about those three great bands.

TDP primarily functioned in the mid to late nineties, putting out three records and gaining a dedicated following of their brand of indie-meets-everything else under the kitchen sink style.  Their third record, two-thousand-one’s Change, was a dramatic shift, showing a much more melancholy and introspective side than its predecessors, and also served as the band’s final record, as they called it quits in two-thousand-three.  While there were one-off reunion shows here and there over the years, nothing solid formed for almost a decade, when it was announced that a reunion record, Uncanney Valley, would be released in two-thousand-thirteen.

Ten years!  I had high, high hopes.  Emergency & I was a pretty monumental record in my college days.

If you take ten years off from putting out records, tons of things change.  Your may get married, or divorced, or have children.  You may have moved.  I mean, you’re ten years older, for crying out loud!  Uncanney Valley is the sound of a band evolving over this ten year period, and recognizing that they want to sound different in their 30s than then did in their 20s.  So is this record tamer than anything off of “!” or The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified?  Yes.  Does that make it bad?  No.  It’s actually more relevant, and doesn’t sound dated at all.  This could be a brand new band at CMJ, and people would surely say, “Man, those guys were really good.  I’m sure they listened to a lot of The Dismemberment Plan back in the day.  Can’t you hear it?”

No One’s Saying Nothing is experimental indie gold, showcasing some sleigh bells, strange keys, and a lot of other instrumentation that defies any easy description from putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard – exactly what TDP excel at.  It’s followed by lead single Waiting, which is a quick indie-pop gem about waiting for love to come along that’s sure to make for the most awkward song of the night on the dance floor.

However, where TDP hits their home runs on this record are the times when they get more contemplative.  Sure, the likes of White Collar White Trash are fun and classic for these guys, but Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer is more than quips and one-liners, and is a true look at Travis Marrison’s past.  Invisible sits perfectly at track three, setting a mellow tone and showcasing a clever, almost backwards-sounding, string section.  I don’t see many bands these days coming up with aspects that are this good without shoving them down your throat.  Dancing with friends on a Tuesday night / Nothing lasts forever and that’s alright / I’m like a spy who came in from the cold / And then I’m gone again before you even know he sings, as he contemplates how small he really is in the universe.

For as small (though realistic) of a statement as he’s trying to make on Invisible, I’m beyond impressed that he wrote up the wonderful Lookin, a true testament to love that stays and conquers.  It may not jump out at you on your first listen through the record, but try spinning it a couple times and notice how it starts to get stuck in your brain.  The same could be said for Let’s Just Go To The Dogs Tonight.  That call-and-response with the audience at the end is just the type of slight-humor that these guys go for.

At first, I was a little let down.  I wanted the speed of Tonight We Mean It, or the slight chaos of Ok Jokes Over.  But like most things in life, you just gotta give it a little time, and good things will come.  TDP aren’t the same men they were in the nineties, and I’m not the same man I was in college.  Evolution is a wonderful thing.


If you had to listen to two tracks:  Waiting / Invisible


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