The comeback album –dangerous words right there. Most bands have a little trouble writing, let alone playing new material after just a few years. For The Dismemberment Plan, it’s been twelve long years since anything new has come out. The band broke up around 2003 and left fans stranded with nothing to listen to. It’s redemption time however and now we all get Uncanney Valley. There’s a lot to be skeptical about. Simply put, they’re a 90’s band releasing new material in 2013. That’s pretty daring, the music world has changed.
Let’s get this out of the way now, The Dismemberment Plan is a little less aggressive, a little more quirky, a little bit different than what you might be expecting. At the end of the day, they’re still the same band though, and Uncanney Valley is probably one of the most well done comebacks ever. The band manages to maintain their posterity and style while simultaneously adapting to an even larger audience. I mean hell, this is practically a fresh start, and without spoiling things too much –Uncanney Valley easily stands on it’s own merits.
Prefaced by jingling bells, jangling guitars, and a burst of bass, Travis Morrison begins to sing, “You hit the spacebar enough and cocaine comes out –I really like this computer.” It’s an odd start, and for many fans will be, in a way, nostalgic. The Dismemberment Plan’s first song on Uncanney Valley is called, “No One’s Saying Nothing.” It’s a series of oddball lyrics and a flurry of instrumental sounds. Wah’ed-out guitars, bells, and intense keyboard melodies, it’s a peculiar selection of instruments. This seemingly continues into the next few songs as well. “Waiting,” keeps the wah, and wraps in more interesting keyboard usage. The chorus lines have an addictive melody and when Morrison breaks loose, boy does he break loose. “You know I changed my life for you, for promises that won’t come true. I’d do it all again you know –you can’t give up on love!” The lyrics are clearly alluring yet uncomfortable. It’s intense, and for a hiatus this long, it’s impressive.
You’d think the Dismemberment Plan would be a little rusty, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Uncanney Valley is creative and bold. Those lyrics may be a little weird, the instruments may be a little unconventional, the effects may seem out of place, but it works. “White Collar White Trash” mixes in some mechanical vocal effects and an unexpected guitar solo. “Mexico City Christmas” feels with a really chiptuneish feel, and almost immediately turns into a more organ-centric jam. The vocals are strong and wild. The band is really proving themselves here, there’s no doubt about it.
On a far more cynical note, Uncanney Valley isn’t perfect. Of course it’s not horrible, but the band has lost some of their youthful charm. Even at their strongest moments, they still lack the energy and emotion as their older works. “What Do You Want Me To Say?” was one of their biggest hits. Morrison’s chorus was haunting and really left an impact. The instrumental melodies were dissonant and dead on. Everything was perfect. Unfortunately, Uncanney Valley doesn’t really meet those kinds of expectations, but it is great all things considered.
Getting back to the positive side of this album, it’s something that the music scene may really need right now. It’s simple yet creative and fun. There’s not much to complain about unless you’re some sort of weirdo who obsesses over pre-Uncanney Valley Dismemberment Plan. On a final note, the closing to Uncanney Valley is maybe one of the most memorable parts. “Let’s Just Go To The Dogs Tonight,” is the last track; the bass line is awesome, the guitars sound clean, and the vocals are simple yet effective. The chorus line is easy to remember (it’s the name of the song), and every little piece inbetween carries a neat little melody. When Morrison breaks into a, “Now when I sat ‘out of’ you say ‘luck’,” you can’t help but feel it’s a little cheesy, but it’s just so damn good.
The Dismemberment Plan, who knew they’d ever release new music? Who could complain when they did? Uncanney Valley is just plain cool. It’s nothing too over the top while simultaneously being weird enough to keep things interesting. Old fans might have a little adjustment period, but will surely fall in love with the band all over again. And chances are there’s going to be a lot of new fans as well. In conclusion: Dear Dismemberment Plan, it’s good to have you back.