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LABEL: Relapse Records RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2004 GENRE: Math Rock, Hardcore
// review by Jeff

His voice made my hair move...

The music of The Dillinger Escape Plan is, admittedly, not the genre of music that I would ever find myself fully emerging into comfortably. Bands such as D.E.P., Mastadon, and Converge who proclaim their messages through excessive screaming and emotionally crippled lyricisms don't seem to really connect with me on the level that these bands likely desire. When I hear this music, I am partially fatigued by their attempts at trying to pulsate my tympanic membranes like cocaine-influenced harp strings with such abrasiveness when a more rational method could be achieved.

That being said, do I declare The Dillinger Escape Plan's "Miss Machine" an utter failure in my eyes? The short answer is, "No." The long answer is, "No, I don't declare this." Upon first listening, I was skeptical about this release; it was very loud, very caustic. An initial reaction from someone like me would probably run something along the lines of, "I can't understand a word this guy is screaming. What utter trash this is! Pfff! Away with it!" That sounds like me. However, once you get used to their excessive techniques (and you can look past the general incoherence of the lead shoutsman), you can actually find an interesting project hidden under the surface rubble. (Ah! Please keep in mind that I had to look up the vast majority of the lyrics for this album. I suggest you do the same.)

D.E.P. is rather unforgiving as they begin the album by shouting at us without warning. Thanks, that was so nice of you. I don't come up to your house and shout at you as soon as you open the door, do I? The opening track, Panasonic Youth, starts us off with a frantic screaming and heavy metal guitar combination, which pretty much sets the standard for the entire album (and actually serves as halfway decent background music for the PC game "DOOM"). Expect to be bombarded with loud hardcore electric guitar thrashing and the like on a pretty frequent basis. One thing I can note about this album is that the riffs are very complex on this album, creating a soundscape of sorts that delivers a strong devilish atmosphere but still entices you and doesn't make you feel like a true sinner. That's good; I can unclench my teeth and a few other organs now. I can also say that the two guitarists here (Brian Benoit and Benjamin Weinman) seem to be very skilled both in the composition and actual playback departments. If they want kudos, I guess they can have them.

On the other hand, the lyrics are something that need to be ironed out. Once you are able to decipher what shoutsman Greg Puciato is spouting out, you'll come across another dilemma: what the heck are they talking about? Most of the lyrics are hieroglyphical in nature, and they seem more like a random string of phrases spewed out by a randomizing computer program than logical prose from a human being. Here's an example of a lyric from We Are The Storm that effectively illustrates my point:

"[...] I've never seen you so weak and so far out of breath and I never saw the tide rise so high so fast; watch this pawn capture the queen white picket drive-by; gargle the stench the storm brings you'll never get enough [...]"

Well, I could've sworn I heard some things rhyming though. So that's a plus. But I'm starting to believe that the lyrics themselves aren't as important as the phonetics that accompany the lyrics. It would have to be true; otherwise, what's the reason for caterwauling about a "f***ing punk rock prostitute"? If you're going to complain about your local sex trade industry, make it clear. (That's a good cause to tirade about, by the way.) But they didn't, so it's all about phonetics. Phonemes can be a powerful tool. And screaming can be a powerful tool too, but only in short bursts. Rumour has it, though, that the lyrics of Sunshine The Werewolf have something to do with people who purposely go around trying to receive or transfer the AIDS virus. That's pleasant, is it not?

It's not a complete screamfest though. My personal favourite track of the album, Unretrofied, is a much calmer track (more mainstream-oriented, I'll admit, but that's not a bad thing in this case; my ears needed to relax). It also proves that Greg Puciato is more than just an excessive larynx quiverer; he can croon out a sultry tune like any other fine vocalist! I just wish he had used that talent a little more often on this album. Also, sometimes certain tracks contain segments of ambience which are MORE than welcome here. Of particular note is that ambient moment within Highway Robbery, which is actually a series of layered... oh, what were they called... poly-somethings... poly... poly... Poly want a cracker... polyrhythms? Was that it? I think I forgot to listen to she who let me listen to this album. I shall be flogged.

Before I conclude this review, one additional point of order comes to mind. Unless you're actually watching the timer on your CD player, you may never know when a song really ends. For example, "We Are The Storm" plays its cours, then switches to a completely different piece of music (an ambient slice perhaps meant to deliver some temporry lavation), and then...the previous song BLARES back at you like an air horn blown directly in the face. That just confuses me. I also still haven't been able to tell, after 10 complete listens over the course of 26 hours, when "Panasonic Youth" ends and "Sunshine The Werewolf" begins. They sound far too alike! 'Sup wit' dat?!

For me to have enjoyed this CD as much as I did, it must be kismet. I've generally scowled at music where someone screams their brains out for lengthy periods of time, but there's just something about this album that keeps pulling me back and I don't know what it is. Perhaps the whole is better than the sum of its parts. Yes, that must be it. Ah, I feel that my tastes are changing; I feel a light tingling sensation. Keep in mind that I'm not calling this a perfect album by any means, but it certainly is a decent gateway into this unique genre of music. Shout it out!


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