Released October 15th, 2013.
Back in 2011, after a session of trawling the internet for 90s post-hardcore bands, I stumbled upon the track Girl O’clock by The Dismemberment Plan. The track instantly struck a chord with my mid-teenage, angst-ridden self; Travis Morrison’s stuttered, awkward musings about his sexual frustrations paired with perhaps one of the tightest yet off kilter rhythm sections ever to grace rock was exactly the catharsis I needed. After buying the seminal Emergency and I vinyl reissue, The D-Plan went on to soundtrack my latter teenage years, so it’s easy to see why I might have difficulty accepting the harsh reality that their new release- the first since 2001’s Change may not be the glorious return of one of indie rock’s most intelligent bands.
Sonically, Uncanny Valley has much in common with Change featuring what some would call a more “mature” sound than their 90s discography. Perhaps the albums greatest strength lies in its focus on punchy, well-crafted pop songs. At less than 40 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and ultimately it proves quite satisfying. The melodies are catchy, with the experimentalism downplayed in favour of simpler arrangements. The rhythm section is still as solid as ever, and many of the use of samples on tracks such as “Invisible” adds a welcome new dimension to the sound.
Fundamentally though, Uncanny Valley is missing the magic that made The Plan so notable. Travis’ vocal delivery is on form but he no longer has much to say, resorting to songs based on anecdotes about Brian Eno’s dad. Whilst the song writing is solid, and there are a few standouts bookending the album, the end result brings to mind latter day Weezer, having lost the energy and freedom of their previous material in exchange for a more plastic sound.
Uncanny Valley is by no stretch of the imagination a bad album; rather it is just a bit “meh” for lack of a better word. That being said, The Dismemberment Plan little else to prove, so perhaps it was foolish of me to expect Emergency and I part II. Rather, what they have produced is a solid set of new material that is fun to listen to and more crucially, should transfer well to their live shows.