by Tom Springer
Every time I talk about a new Dance Gavin Dance album my reaction is the same: This is the best they’ve ever done. While I still hold 2016’s Mothership in high regards, their last album, Artificial Selection has unfortunately lost its luster for me. Not that it’s a bad album, it still has a few great songs like “The Rattler” but overall the album felt like it took itself too seriously which is an odd thing to say about a band that on the same album has lyrics about smoking weed out of a p*ssy. Overall though it just felt like it lost some of the fun the previous albums had. Not that Dance Gavin Dance never got serious before but it was often tongue in cheek and exaggerated. On top of that the instrumentals started to blend together. That brings me to Afterburner. Does it bring things back? Or does it just burn up?
The first single released called “Prisoner” had me mixed about the album, it’s a solid song and I still like it but it felt almost like a B side to Artificial Selection. Thankfully the song really is strong enough to stand on its own and the rest of the album brings back a lot of the fun from previous albums. The song “Lyrics Lie” (which I’ll talk about more later) is self referential and a bit ridiculous while still carrying a serious message. “Three Wishes” honestly sounds like that soulful kind of pop influenced sound that they explored with Johnny Craig but works well with Tilian Pearson on vocals. The other single released prior called “Strawberry’s Wake” is probably one of the more interesting songs simply due to the unclean delivery from Jon Mess, plus again especially towards the end it’s just over the top fun.
Afterburner brings back a lot of the songs that keep your feet tapping and head nodding. They’re catchy, they’re at times ridiculous lyrically and instrumentally, and they’re just good old fashioned fun. All things that Artificial Selection seemed to lack. If I take one issue with the album (and disclaimer this is a personal belief and issue) it’s that there’s this underlying message that bands being ‘attacked’ for their problematic lyrics and past offenses is a bad thing and that people shouldn’t take those things so seriously. Personally I think it’s important to hold bands accountable and to get them to grow and do better. That said the overarching message is that you should be true to yourself and not worry about how others are going to perceive you. That message of honesty is one I can definitely get behind. Again it’s a minor gripe regarding what is ultimately a fantastic album.
Dance Gavin Dance’s Afterburner feels like a bit of a return to everything that made us fall in love with them in the first place while still pushing forward all at the same time. It seems like they found a sound that really works. There are a ton of influences from their contemporaries in particular there’s a lot of guitar moments that feel like they would be right at home on a Stolas album, but it’s still uniquely Dance Gavin Dance. They’ve shown once again why they refuse to be categorized and defined. Afterburner may or may not be their best work but it’s a solid album that offers anything you could want from the band.