Emergency & I
The Dismemberment Plan
Reviewed by Aaron Shuman
Monday, November 15 1999, 6:53 PM
In the liner notes, the Dismemberment Plan give props to nearly everyone who's made the D.C. punk scene, with the exception of the band they most pleasantly recall. Circus Lupus was a double-barrelled assault on pop convention, with odd-metered basslines that ran everywhere except in place, and spite-flecked lyrics that dropped in manifestoes. The difference between bands is that while Circus Lupus made its home in the garage, the Dismemberment Plan settle more comfortably into 70s fare: glam, prog rock, and no-wave.
This makes for a remarkably wide, though not entirely successful, array of music. One risk the Plan take, in breaking down pop forms, is that they make listeners hungry for the original. On "The Jitters," Dismemberment Plan do a beautiful rendition of Second Edition PiL, with seagull guitars and trance bass, but I wish these were leavened by John Lydon's sneer. "You Are Invited" is Casioplay that will make you turn off your CD player and unpack your Tangerine Dream.
One thing that undermines the music is the amount of space given words. Never have I encountered songs so thick with them. On "I Love a Magician," one of the album's finest songs, which like its other songs about the ladies, also happens to be the most straightforward, the lead singer's falsettos and shoo-bop de-wops redouble the music. But too often, the singer treats the band the way a shambling Beat poet does his pick-up group on Open Mike Tuesday. And the words, quite frankly, don't merit the spotlight.
The joy of constructivist songs is that they can always regain your interest, because there's always something new in the mix. More often than not, on this album at least, the Plan back themselves into a corner where rockist cliches and bombast seem the only way out. After so many guitar bridges and faux revel ations, you begin to suspect they are not manipulating forms so much as succumbing to them.
Emergency and I is a Desoto Records release