Dance Gavin Dance finds stability in chaos on “Artificial Selection”

Alex Toth

2016 held a couple big milestones for Dance Gavin Dance. First off, it marked the band’s fourth year with vocalist Tilian Pearson, making him the only man on Earth to last more than three consecutive years on the microphone for DGD. Second, and more importantly, it also saw the release of “Mothership,” the band’s seventh studio album, and their most successful one yet. So after cracking the top 15 of the Billboard Hot 200 for the first time in their careers, and with the vocalist position finally looking stable for the foreseeable future, where do Dance Gavin Dance go from here?

Well, if this were a different band, such as their labelmates Of Mice & Men, one might expect them to commercialize their sound, building on their newfound popularity in a bid for radio play and mainstream attention. But this post-hardcore quintet is quite unlike other bands, and they’ve done the exact opposite of what would be expected by their peers.

As it turns out, “Artificial Selection” is Dance Gavin Dance’s most experimental album yet. Guitarist Will Swan agrees, stating that their eighth album is their most diverse, and also their most sonically incohesive. They’ve used the benefits gained by their growing sales and stable lineup to go even further down the path of relentless experimentation and genre-hopping that their work has become known for. This decision to carve deeper into their niche of chaotic, quirky sounds has offered them a solid ground to stand on as a band… “stability in chaos,” in a way.

It only takes one listen to the first four of five tracks on “Artificial Selection” to see what I mean by this. Lead single “Midnight Crusade” wouldn’t sound out of place as the opening song for an anime. Meanwhile, the use of a kazoo and bongos mesh perfectly with Tilian Pearson’s vocal acrobatics on “Count Bassy” and “Care,” adding flair to their R&B-styled melodies. The album takes a detour with “The Rattler,” a heavy, grinding track that represents the sonic polar opposite of the aforementioned “Care.” Former vocalist Kurt Travis in “Shelf Life” and touring member Andrew Wells in “Evaporate” join the party as vocal features, offering a nice deviation from Pearson’s signature raspy tenor.

The lyrics are as wacky as ever, and it would be a disappointment for Dance Gavin Dance to have it any other way.  “Hair Song” contains a chorus dedicated to doing one’s hair (what else did you expect?) and the penultimate track “Bloodsucker” sees screamer Jon Mess utter the hilarious yet also factually correct line, “You’ve gotta be on alcohol to hang out in a shopping mall, there’s nothing left to buy that isn’t cheaper online.”

The only criticism that I can levy against “Artificial Selection” is that a few tracks here and there are quite forgettable compared to the brilliance of the rest, most notably mid-album cuts “Flash” and “Gospel Burnout.” I’d also argue that this record doesn’t offer the cohesiveness or consistent quality of its predecessor, “Mothership.”  But while “Artificial Selection” may not be the band’s magnum opus, Dance Gavin Dance has crafted yet another fantastic record to add to their ever-growing collection.

Rating: 4/5 sails

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