Monday, August 16, 2004


The Dismemberment Plan

Timebomb Sometimes when bands break up, great things happen (think Uncle Tupelo spinning into Wilco and Son Volt. Not necessarily improvements, but excellent substitutes). Sometimes fans are left hoping musicians who've outgrown each other would just suck it up and stick together to ensure the whole stays better than the sum of its parts. Take Washington D.C.'s The Dismemberment Plan. In their day, they thrashed out one of the tightest live shows in indie rock. Tempo changes, requests from the floor, blazingly fast book-of-list songs like The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich (take REM's It's The End of The World as We Know It, remove the sing-alongy chorus, crank up the BPM and add a basketful of effects lifted from Pac Man and Missile Command); the Plan were a punk-funk-guitar-shakin'-cheap-keyboard-stompin' force. Their live show made you want to get out of your sickbed and dance. (Which I did once. No lie. Fever of 120.) Their recorded output was at times brilliant and always interesting (except for 2003's People's History of The Dismemberment Plan a re-mix album which - I will not debate this - did not happen). 1999's Emergency and I was two tracks short of a desert island album, The Ice of Boston – originally released on 1997's The Dismemberment Plan is Terrified – is emo's answer to Midnight Train to Georgia (all the way down to the shout out Gladys Knight receives in the song's final verse). Timebomb, from 2001's Change, is wonderful: at times manacing and jangly, at times a screetchy pop-rock assault. Think wind chimes made of SkilSaw blades . . . with super-tight high hat. The Dismemberment Plan broke up last year and though what's left isn't Wings, Freely's Comet or Methods of Mayhem it's short of the old magic. Pro-war indie rocker (say WHAT?) Travis Morrison has moved on to record Travistan (Barsuk). If it sounds is like the demos published on his website - which, aside from the kickASS Ludacris cover, keep the Plan's jump and stutter while losing their gut-level kick - I'll be kinda sad. Meanwhile, Plan bass player Eric Axelson, one of the nicer guys in rock, has formed Maritime with two members of The Promise Ring. The first result (Glass Floor on Desotto) is the friendly (inoffensive?) pop music you'd expect from the one of the nicest guys in rock getting together with members of The Promise Ring. Sigh. Maybe in ten years scads of posthumous critical acclaim (and mortgage payments) will propel Travis, Eric and the boys to filling arenas on a reunion tour like the Pixies. Until then, I fear I'll be left thinking of what might have been. Buy The Dismemberment Plan's Change Visit The Dismemberment Plan on the web Buy Maritime's Glass Floor Visit Maritime on the web Visit Travis Morrison on the web
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