Dance Gavin Dance - Instant Gratification (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dance Gavin Dance

Instant Gratification (2015)

Rise Records

Dance Gavin Dance will always hold a special place in my heart. Downtown Battle Mountain I was an explosive screamer and really showed what Jonny Craig is capable of, shenanigans aside. After that, lineup changes and musical inconsistencies plagued them and the only album that registered was their 2011 self-titled, fronted by Kurt Travis. Bobbing and weaving through vocalists and second chances, it comes down to Tilian Pearson (Tides of Man) to follow up 2013's Acceptance Speech and voice their new direction. Ultimately, while each member's technically great at what they do, once more, the magic from the band's debut seems too hard to recapture and as a sum of all its parts, DGD comes up short on Instant Gratification.

The band needs to define their sound once and for all after so many musical divorces. They seem lost. Pearson felt drab on the last album but this time, he manages much better. However, I'm still curious as to if he intended to sway to the vocal style of Craig (on "Legend") and if he deliberately shifted to Travis' style on "Variation". He seems polarized as how to operate and whether he should just make the songs his own. And really own them. Will Swann's shimmery riffs and melodic licks are on point as usual and lay a solid proggy/experimental/jazz-infused foundation and it's a shame he didn't exploit this base a bit more and bring forth their formative layers. "We Own The Night" and "Stroke God, Millionaire" are great openers and leave you optimistic early on. But the mid-tracks soon align themselves too much along the lines of their label peers and musical-circle contemporaries. Things come off a tad too generic-core. That's until Jon Mess shakes things up a bit more with his abrasive screams on "Shark Dad", which up until then felt like he was being hidden. He needed to be more vocal and sadly, the first half of the record doesn't utilize him well.

Matt Mingus' drums is in stark contrast one of the biggest and praiseworthy constants through and through. Yet again, he proves to be such a rapid, driving force for a band that rarely disappoints instrumentally. But yet again, their narrative and average lyrical content end up missing the mark as it feels they're still without an identity. "Lost" winds things down and honestly feels like the best road for DGD to walk. It comes too little, too late but it's a good balance of aggression and melodic flow that DGD's debut brought out. I hate comparing or holding a band up to one set standard but for some reason, it feels like this is the only litmus test these guys can be held to. I wish I could say this album feels like they're on the right track and are set on the correct path to finding themselves but instead, it feels like they've been given ample time only to conjure up a bumbled mess. I'll be giving them a next shot though. They've got something on high-school me that I can't explain.