Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dillinger Escape Plan-Option Paralysis

I'll be the first to concede that I didn't give Dillinger Escape Plan's newest album a very fair shake this year.  Don't get me wrong; I got it when it came out, I listened to it a few times, and I remember thinking to myself, "Yeah, that's a Dillinger Escape Plan album all right," while I drove my work van through the wild southwest of Spicewood, TX.  I then stopped off at a gas station that I frequented at the time to buy a Peace Tea and take a monster whiz.  These are, unfortunately, the feelings that I have attached to Option Paralysis, which doesn't seem very fair, since so many other, lesser albums that I own are associated with memories that involve less boredom and bodily excretions in general.

Dillinger's music has always been that way for me, though.  I remember when I bought their previous (and stellar) offering Ire Works, I was working at W.A. Thompson in Bakersfield, CA.  That album really has some lame memories attached to it; I first really discovered the joys of Greg Puciato's clean singing voice at a time when my life was work and school, and realistically consisted of little more than a cycle of hangover, being really sweaty in a cold place, getting drunk again and falling asleep on the couch.  The cycle itself was little more than a series of unpleasant tasks punctuated by horrible, diet soda-induced bowel movements and the recurring thought, "Uh oh, I'm too drunk for this."  All this nonwithstanding, Ire Works was in extremely heavy rotation at the time, and holds a special place in my heart, since it showed me that the inclusion of clean singing, properly approached, can actually help the dynamic of an album rather than just being a failed songwriting mechanic aimed at garnering more fans who think that screaming is icky.

Now, for Option, Dillinger takes their songwriting to the next level.  Option takes the dynamic shifts from Ire and intrigrates them more fully into their sound.  Now, instead of having a bunch of Dillinger-style clatter-grind with a couple of brief (and surprisingly well-written) sing along interludes, Dillinger has appropriated that style into their compositions at large.  The album at large has a more seamless ebb-and-flow, and comes across simultaneously slick and unsettling, like a polished wooden sphere dripping with semen.  (It's art, man!)  This shift serves the album quite well, and repeated listens reveal new facets of the experience every time.

The other association I make with Dillinger is the time I saw them live in Lancaster, CA, with Unearth and Zao (odd bill, no?).  I was there to see Unearth, (because they did and will always tickle my breakdown bone just right), but Dillinger, who I had only dabbled with on the most superficial level before writing off as "lame," completely stole the show.  This, I believe, was pre-Puciato Dillinger, which means that Dimitri Minakakis was in the front-man helm at this point.  I remember very clearly Minakakis climbing the rickety house P.A. and squatting between it and the ceiling, screaming at the crowd.  He wasn't up there long, though; the P.A. quickly got jostled by the goings-on in the pit, and Minakakis fell into the crowd, taking a sizeable hunk of the ceiling to the floor with him.  He then bounded up to the stage, not missing a beat, grabbed a crash cymbal stand, and jumped back into the crowd, playing the crash with his microphone while crowdsurfing across a sea of adoring fans.  The later realization that they had cultivated a colorful insurance-related nickname referring to their stage show (Dillinger Insurance Plan?  Dillinger Mutual of Omaha?  Something like that) came as little surprise having inadvertently experienced it firsthand.  That show is, in fact, what compelled me to give the band a fair shake to begin with, and I'm glad I ended up there.

Dillinger Escape Plan made a name for themselves by putting together relentless, cacaphonous songs that speak to the disturbing, chaotic world at large.  To think that they've come so far from their first full length, Calculating Infinity, which is a looming monument to technical dynamism and throat-shredding badassery, to the soaring peaks and nuanced valleys of Option Paralysis is highly impressive.  However, in the wake of all this reflection, I feel terrible for the band, because out there on the webulogosphere I stand, constantly comparing them to dumps that I took.  I'm sorry, guys, but if it makes you feel any better, I'm a huge fan.

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