The Dillinger Escape Plan
posted on 3/2010 By:
More than almost any other heavy band of their generation, The Dillinger Escape Plan are obsessed with pissing people off.
Their persistence in annoying the shit out of people with their antics is actually kind of impressive, considering that the band retains only one founding member (guitarist Ben Weinman). Since their formative years—spent clobbering audience members with guitar headstocks, dissing other bands on the internet, and blowing fireballs into crowded clubs—DEP have increasingly relied on their music to irritate not only the general public, but the more conservative wing of their paradoxically large fanbase as well.
Ironically, the band’s aural nose-thumbing has come mostly in the form of increasingly prevalent pop-rock songwriting tactics, and Option Paralysis is no exception. This album is the culmination of a trend dating back to Miss Machine; it represents the most complete integration of DEP’s creeping pop influences with their hyperkinetic convulsions to date.
A lot of Dillinger fans will be ticked off by Option Paralysis, but after the band’s last few releases, they certainly shouldn’t be surprised. “What did you expect/That we would never leave home?” sneers vocalist Greg Puciato on opener “Farewell, Mona Lisa.” The track begins with a few minutes of grinding mathcore chaos before segueing into the Faith No More-inspired rock that makes up a growing percentage of this band’s sound. But surprisingly, their mania never quite disappears, even during the song’s huge chorus.
And so it goes throughout Option Paralysis—Dillinger have largely done away with the practice of segregating their cuts into ‘crazy songs’ and ‘pop songs.’ The album features a few bursts of cracked-out hyperviolence (notably “Crystal Mornings” and the devastating “Good Neighbor,” which shows off new skinsman Billy Rymer’s skills), but it never fully replicates the fever-dream intensity that characterized their debut. And to my mind, that’s just fine. Calculating Infinity came out eleven years ago, and the shock value that comprised much of its appeal has been eroded by the years and by scads of clone bands.
Dillinger’s sub-three-minute tantrums are crowd-pleasers, but Option Paralysis is most compelling when it exhibits the band’s newfound skill at fluidly combining their disparate approaches. “Widower” begins as a contemplative jazz-piano number a la Ire Works’ “Mouth of Ghosts,” but gradually builds tension and volume until it explodes into a stuttering quasi-blast. “Chinese Whispers,” meanwhile, might be the album’s best track. It shows off Puciato’s impressive vocal range and seamlessly blends Dillinger’s off-kilter rhythms, punk-rock sass, and surprising melodic sensibility.
But DEP still haven’t quite perfected their stylistic alchemy. “I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t” is a straightforward shredder for most of its four minutes, but includes a piano break and a clean chorus that appear without warning or reason and vanish just as quickly. Likewise, “Gold Teeth on a Bum” is Dillinger’s latest attempt at delivering a nervous slow-burner (think “Black Bubblegum” or “Phone Home”), and while it’s marginally more successful than its predecessors, it noticeably disrupts the album’s momentum after two blistering lead-off tracks.
And Puciato, for all of his skill, will continue to be a sticking point for a lot of folks. His clean vocals are more prominent on this album than ever before, and will continue to polarize the hell out of listeners. Personally, I enjoy his blatant Patton-isms, his punk snarl, and the vein-popping (and some veins they are, considering duder’s beefy frame) scream that he has historically relied on. His occasional falsetto, however, continue to sound kind of sleazy rather than creepy, and defuse any sense of menace or foreboding whenever he employs them.
Not that he—nor any of his bandmates—likely care much. “You should never have put your trust in any of us,” he taunts on “Farewell, Mona Lisa,” and in doing so he neatly sums up their attitude. The Dillinger Escape Plan continue to basically do whatever they want, regardless of how many fans they gain or lose in the process. Their career will always be defined by their early recordings, but regardless of whether you love or hate what they’ve done since, their dedication to their vision deserves respect.
Or perhaps we should all just give in and hate these dudes. They seem just fine with that.
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