I'll admit to being someone who often times runs in the opposite direction of hype. If I hear of a band or artist getting tons of positive press, sometimes I'll simply try to stay away from them completely until things have sort of died down. Part of the reason for doing that is because I hate feeling like I'm caught up in a bandwagon sweep of popularity, and part of the reason is that I simply know my perception of said artists will probably be influenced by how much hype I feel the group has received. I'll be the first to admit that it's pretty goddamn stupid reasoning, but that's how it works in my mind sometimes.
All of the above said, I definitely steered clear from The Dismemberment Plan for this reason. When their album Emergency And I came out last year, it was getting praises up and down (which in retrospect I'm sure were justified) for being nicely original in a world of stale indie rock, and their follow-up Change got pretty decent marks as well. Several months later, I decided that I could finally give the group a proper listen without being swayed by hype, and in doing so have found that Change is in fact an enjoying listen.
One of the things that I've tried to keep in mind with reviewing this disc is that this is their fourth release, yet it's the first one that I've heard. According to most assessments that I've read, it's also a release that marks a big change (hence the title, natch) for the group musically. Whereas they used to let loose with more of a frenetic post punk sound, this newest disc is definitely more introspective. Over the course of 11 tracks, it rarely rocks out at all, but instead moves through different styles with a more assured hand. Lyrically, Travis Morrison keeps things fresh at nearly all points, ruminating with a thoughtful and interesting look at life, death, and random points in-between.
Musically, the first two tracks on the disc tie together brilliantly. "Sentimental Man" comes out of the gate with a fairly funky rhythm section while keyboard drones swirl and guitars kerrang every so often as Morrisons vocals are rather restrained, even when he reaches for falsetto in the chorus. "Face Of The Earth" picks up right where the bleed of the first track leads off, and after a nice instrumental opening, the group again drops into a mid-tempo, swaying tempo before blasting the guitars at a couple moments to shake things up a bit.
After picking up steadily on the next two tracks (including probably the most rocking track in "Pay For The Piano"), they quiet things down again before launching into the absolutely blistering "Secret Curse." Running under three minutes, the track is the shortest on the disc but easily packs the most wallop. Of course, the group recognizes the intensity, and cools things down to acoustic level on the next track. The album closes out with probably the strangest one-two combo on the disc, including the instrumental jungle rhythms of "The Other Side" and the downright silly (including video game noises) album closer of "Ellen And Ben." If anything, though, it just shows that although the group may have changed their sound a bit, they still have a good sense of humor. All in all, an excellent little album, and one that makes me want to seek out their past work.