Sacramento post-hardcore outfit Dance Gavin Dance have seen their fair share of personnel changes throughout their 10 years. The band most recently recruited Tilian Pearson of Tides of Man as their third clean vocalist on 2013 LP Acceptance Speech, a role he reprises on their latest album Instant Gratification. After six albums it can be difficult for any artist to maintain creative momentum as well as individualism, a universal push and pull that permeates the careers of all prolific, or long-serving, artists. While the constant rotation of contributing members helps the band from ever becoming stagnant, the compositing partnership of founding members guitarist Will Swan and drummer Matt Mingus ensures the consistency of the outfit’s characteristic sonic qualities.
Album opener We Own The Night lays out the formula that informs the rest of the LP, pitting sections of Pilian’s soaring, clean tenor, and melodic guitar against sections of Jon Mess’ shattering screams, and hammering percussion. This relationship continues through much of Instant Gratification, so much so that it approaches the limits of predictability. In Stroke God, Millionaire Pearson delivers infectious phrases that play well with melodic guitar fills, as he and Mess (unclean vocals) continue to converse. It is here that Mess delivers perhaps the album’s most memorable (and strangest) ramblings: “The things that you do with your attitude / I’m awkward, I’m chipper, I’m random dude / The picture, I like it, so don’t be rude / We all came here just to fap”.
Possibly the heaviest track on the LP, Shark Dad is a frantic offering driven forward by Mingus’ busy drum work. Frenzied aggression fuelled by intense, gritty guitars is seemingly endless until the relieving reappearance of Pearson.
Tracks Awkward and Something New appeal more to the band’s pop sensibilities, while Legend is an unexpected slow jam and one of the more melodically interesting tracks on the album. Death of a Strawberry is the LP’s only sequel track, delivering a softer, danceable epilogue to the Strawberry Swisher trilogy that began on 2009’s Happiness.
In an attempt to negate the possible banality of the band’s tried and tested formula, Dance Gavin Dance create eclectic moments of unexpectedness. The viscous Shark Dad for example offers a sudden dance break half way through, while in Eagle vs. Crows Swan delivers a slightly humorous rap cameo, and The Cuddler features a funk-tinged hook which capitalises on the pairing of Mingus and bassist Feerick.
Despite the constant threat of predictability that many post-hardcore bands navigate, there are two particular elements of Dance Gavin Dance’s seventh release that are undeniable. Super tight ensemble work is perhaps a symptom of the genre, but is especially evident here, particularly taking into consideration the revolving nature of the band’s core lineup. Kris Crummett’s production work is also seamless, serving to further highlight the band’s strong performing relationship.