Going to do something a bit different with this review. I am going to cover both of these albums in one retrospective, cause I kind of see them as a joint package. Not that they are the same or a continuation but like a firm handshake. One going with the other. Now onto it.
I think I was not introduced to this band in the most ideal circumstances for me to love them out of the gate. In the early college-era, I found out about alot of bands by just riding in cars with friends. The soundtrack was a hodgepodge of local bands (that we were hell bent on supporting) and a certain type of guitar rock.
And I didn’t like it by and large.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it per se, it just wasn’t for me. At that time, I was really into building up a music history in my head that I never got as a kid. Like, trying to listen to Bob Dylan’s full discography. Stuff like that. And I just couldn’t get into it. Why would I care about Thursday when I was busy trying to get every Talking Heads record.
But one day I finally got my band of that era. A friend of mine had this CD in from this band he was into. Turns out it was Emergency & I. At first, I had my usual reserve. Then he goes, “I know what you want to hear…” and he plays this:
Blew me away. Now to be fair in this retrospective, there isn’t really another song on these two records that is this frantic.
But, he was totally right, this is what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Sometimes I need that push off the cliff. Proof that the band can do something really interesting before I can get into the sound the band is actually going for. And this song was it.
Emergency & I ended up being the record that I asked my friend to put on when I got tired of the shitty early-emo that was typical on any car ride in that era.
I actually tried to hunt it down, but in those pre-amazon days, it was tough. I owned Change first cause that’s the only one I could get. I ended up finding Emergency & I years later at a record store a world away.
Going back and reviewing these two albums after quite a few years of distance makes me appreciate them so much more. I really think The Dismemberment Plan was out here (at least for these two albums) to make something that lasted. They feel alot more fresh than albums of that era.
Well, lets dive in.
Emergency & I is definitely the rougher of the two records. I mean that in a texture way. Where Change I feel like is very polished and clean, this still has that indie band roughness here, but you can tell where they are going.
What separates this type of album from the contemporaries I feel like is two things. First, the musicianship is just much better. They feel like a more put together band on these records. They know their instruments and they get a lot of creativity out of that traditional indie rock sound. You definitely can’t say that of the bands around that era that rely on one cord and a big guitar crunch.
Second, is the lyrics. I think lyrically, the band is LEAPS AND BOUNDS above its other post-hardcore/post-punk late 90s/early 2000s grouping. Lets look at a song as an example:
I saw someone describe emo music once as emotionally lewd. I don’t know about that, but it is often direct in a way that just feels lazy and stupid. I like the subtlety here. A song that a lesser band could have easily turned into a “I don’t belong here” song. Which is what its saying, but I think it has a certain amount of thought in it. And more…pensive. Its less wallowing in the emotions and more trying to find a way out of an issue.
I think that’s what I love about these two records as a whole. The emotion in of itself is not an endpoint.
Lets jump to the next record. Change is my personal favorite of the two.
Its a much more chill record. Toning down the franticness, this album is much more laid back in its pensiveness. I also feel like the songs are much more polished here. They have just a rock solid crop of hits in this humble preacher’s opinion.
Take Superpowers here. Great verse/chorus/verse thing with a wonderful little guitar bridge at the end. Keep it simple. You are not out here to write Roundabout. You are out here to deliver good songs, and that’s what the band does.
Regardless of whatever future crap the band cranked out, they made some really smart, chill music here. The sound just feels more sophisticated here. Less…gimmicky? Don’t want to call it that, but its a sound I wish they would have gone further into.
Also listen to that fucking drummer. No lazy shit for this guy. He’s out here to do work in the background.
I think what brought me back to these two records is their overall themes. Making sense out of chaos. Trying to get your head together.
I know I found Change when I was going through the whole Katrina mess. I finally got Emergency & I when I just moved to a new city only to realize I would have to leave in almost precisely one year’s time.
And I am now back to both of them heading into Shot #2. Trying to figure out how to let the world back into my life. What that will even look like. I still don’t know yet, but these two Dismemberment Plan records are really giving me some comfort right now.
I can’t recommend them both enough. I know some of their later work isn’t this good, including the lead singer getting roasted on a solo debut. I would look at these albums in isolation.
To paraphrase Jack Black, bands have a set supply of rocket sauce. Some bands lose all their rocket sauce in one song. The Dismemberment Plan had enough rocket sauce to give us two phenomenal records.
That’s good enough for me. Give them a listen. They feel just right for the moment. Like finding your favorite jacket in a closet and there is five bucks in the pocket.