Downtown Battle Mountain Review
Dance Gavin Dance
The post-hardcore scene seems to be in the process of slowly being re-engineered to resemble a more lively emo. But anybody who has done their homework, and subsequent band-digging through the genre will inevitably come across the post-hardcore heavyweight, Dance Gavin Dance. Dance Gavin Dance in this immensely musically successful album revitalizes the origins of post-hardcore as not emo, but a progressive, more musically-conscious nod at hardcore.
As some background information, Downtown Battle Mountain features Jonny Craig, a talented vocalist whose gospel-reminiscent style is slowly being popularized in the genre. The vocalist on Happiness, Craig Owens, shares the soulful singing style, but many critics saying the sincere emotion is lacking in his tone. Personally, I think Jonny Craig has an incredibly distinct and unique sound, and the band did well to re-recruit him for the alleged production of Downtown Battle Mountain 2. However, Craig Owens is a force to be reckoned with in his own right.
As for the album itself, if post-hardcore has a masterpiece, this is it. The soulful vocals, the intelligent rhythm patterns, incredible harmonies, and even the well-placed screaming create an overall overwhelming effect.
Initially, the album starts off with Untitled. Lyrically, it’s not much more than indecisive, repetitive internal philosophical dialogue; “I believe there’s meaning / No, I believe there’s nothing”, with a throaty voice speaking as an undercurrent. However, the overall tone and nature of this song is a reflection of the overall sound of the entire album. If you’re one for catchy, understandable, up-front lyrics, you probably won’t like the album. Downtown Battle Mountain‘s lyrics meaning tends to be abstract and foggy, and a times a little unintelligible through Craig’s soulful belts. The song itself has a ponderous, far-off, minor sound that resonates throughout the rest of the songs.
Another thing that Dance Gavin Dance does excellently is relating the songs. The transitions of Untitled to And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman and Surprise! I’m From Cuba, Everyone Has One Brain and 12 Hours, 360 Miles actually were noticeably well done and make the album flow consistently. From the cooler tone of Untitled, Dance Gavin Dance just rams into And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman full throttle, with a full guitar current, Craig at his best, and ferociously crisp screaming. And then, it gives way to a more gentle current, before slowly regaining it’s original intensity. The lyrics themselves are poetic, and as usual, slightly and a little deviously sexual; “I lay without understanding/ I don’t know, why I feel this way/ Oh, lay down girl/ Take my world.”
The Backwards Song is where Dance Gavin Dance really goes all out. Well executed riffs on guitar echo and reoccur throughout the whole song. The dissonant, wailing guitars complement a catchy rhythm and ingenious voice effects; from screaming, emotional singing, and a intriguing and surprisingly catchy breed between intense whisper and low speech. As far as lyrics go, I think it’s well worth your time to go out and look them up after listening to the song; they are in themselves very poetic at times (sometimes they don’t make any sense, and are probably not intended to make any at all with “fix your tie and lead the line out”) and add a whole new aspect to the song once you know them.
12 Hours, 360 Miles is the tender, toned-down song that again showcases Dance Gavin Dance’s versatility. However, even if it is a break from the constant riffing and electric guitar undertones throughout the other ten songs, it is by no means a break from Craig’s emotional wail, and really emphasizes and highlights it. It’s probably one of the most emotional songs on the album (and trust me, that’s saying something).
If you’re one for the more heavy songs that put the hardcore in post-hardcore, besides first impressions, OpenYour Eyes and Look North is pretty intense. The guitars pretty much go crazy towards the end, and the screaming is pretty consistently present throughout the whole song. The drummer really taps out towards the end, as well as exhilarating fast strumming of singular notes giving the whole song an eager sound even when it’s not so heavy on the drums and bass. Stick it out, and you’ll be rewarded with experimental vocals at the end reminiscent of the Backwards Pumpkin Song that don’t fail to at least catch your attention.
All in all Downtown Battle Mountain is the album that defined Dance Gavin Dance and made it so high-profile on the post-hardcore scene. Jonny Craig, himself a talented musician who gets his fair share of projects (also a vocalist in Emarosa, Isles & Glaciers, and solo work) admitted that the album was probably his best record. (At the time of the interview in Alternative Press). I recommend instead of buying maybe It’s Safe to Say You Dig the Backseat, Lemon Meringue Tie, and the other more popular songs of the album, that you save your money for the $9 full album on amazon.com. I can’t emphasize enough that every song is truly and completely worth your time. I myself, have racked up a 101 playcount for the song 12 Hours, 360 Miles, and don’t be surprised when you find yourself continuously listening to Downtown and not once getting bored.
As a last note, keep in mind that the guys of Dance Gavin Dance aren’t ones to take things too seriously. So, as far as song titles, don’t get too serious in decoding philosophical meanings. Apparently, these are just catch-phrases that cropped up when they were producing or writing that particular song. (Personally, I want to know the story behind Surprise! I’m from Cuba, Everyone Has One Brain.)