Growing older, taking time apart and working on different musical projects has made a noticeable imprint…
When you consider The Dismemberment Plan derived their name from a stray phrase uttered in Groundhog Day, you can somewhat imagine the mindset the band operates in and how this reflects in their sound. Witty, but dry; obscure, yet familiar; pleasant, but dark; comforting, but detached – The Dismemberment Plan (or D-Plan sometimes) operate in a series of contradictions, yet retain a fragile harmony which boggles the imagination and never ceases to delight the listener. Twelve years since their somewhat premature dissolution, a sell-out show at Bristol’s Thekla this past Friday night certainly didn’t reek of the many desperate comebacks we’ve all grown wary of, and simply goes to show that a good band can retain their legacy.
Support came in the form of Empty Pools, a band which couldn’t have been a more appropriate addition to the bill; a sophisticated parcel of noise-laden, poppy post-rock wrapped in a bow of wickedly enticing riffs and grooving melodies. Their set, short but sweet, showcased a handful of songs from their recently released debut album, Saturn Reruns – Small Talk, Exploded View, Medium Wave – among others.
When The Dismemberment Plan took to the stage at 8:30, pressed by Thekla’s strict curfew and imminent club night, frontman Travis Morrison offered a word to the wise – “The disco is coming, and when the disco comes you’d better run” – from which you could surmise the frustration of performing on such an inflexible schedule, seeming to loom over the band throughout the set, quite possibly forcing a fractional up tempo. However, with a crowd pleasing ‘What Do You Want Me To Say?’ on Morrison’s lips from the start, the band successfully navigated their allocated hour with respectable levity, not entirely dismissing audience interaction and typical gig banter in between.
Their set comprised a healthy selection of tracks from their entire discography, jack-knifing from album to album at breakneck speed – from 1995’s ‘!’ to this year’s ‘Uncanney Valley’ – which far from alienated the most casual of listeners in the audience, and wonderfully highlighted the band’s diverse spectrum of work, from early associations with D.C. hardcore to their most delightful indie pacifiers and algorithmic art-punk.
Particular highlights from the night included ‘Doing The Standing Still’, from 1997’s ‘Is Terrified’ – a song which dripped in exquisite irony when everyone, bar one frantic reviewer and a few awkward scufflers, did the standing still – ‘Back and Forth’, from 1999’s ‘Emergency & I’, which positively invited movement, bopping, swaying and hands-in-the-air; and ‘OK Jokes Over’, from ‘!’, which closed the set at terminal velocity.
Ultimately, The Dismemberment Plan are a not above the legacy they left behind some twelve years ago, but at the same time, growing older, taking time apart, and working on different musical projects has made a noticeable imprint. The direction they are taking is by no means following a calculated trajectory, and I think this is what works most in their favour; the unexpected twists and turns, the ups and downs, the hits and misses – this is what makes the band. The reformation, new LP and subsequent touring has presented long-time fans with something different, that extends rather than diminishes our perception of the band as a whole. If tonight’s show can stand as testimony to any of this, it is simply that The Dismemberment Plan have made their comeback strong, and are certainly capable of going in any boundless direction from here on out.
Stream the recent ‘Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer’ right here: