Contradiction has always been a major constituent of the Dismemberment Plan's rise to semi-global prominence. While the rest of the nation's capitol guzzled tap water, spat vitriol and revved their guitars at 300cc's, the D-Plan sipped champagne out of paper cups, listened to battered Impressions and Sam & Dave records, and mapped out a sonic blueprint that was more Motown than Minor Threat. There was always something about them that did quite mesh. Whether that meant they were ahead of their time or just fantastically odd sonic travelers remains to be seen, but their place in DC's hallowed musical aristocracy is already assured.
A People's History of the Dismemberment Plan isn't a hackneyed "greatest hits" package but a remix record -- albeit one completely bereft of the usual remix suspects (Oakenfold, The DFA and Justin Robertson). If you haven't heard, the bulk of the mixes featured here were made by actual fans as part of a competition held by the band through their website. Hand-picked by the Plan themselves, the twelve remixes that comprise A People's History… run the gamut from hack 'n' slash digital manipulation to wave-lapping harmonies and chilly new-wave breaks.
It's not all gold, but there are moments of whiplash bliss within this history lesson. Parae's "The Face of the Earth (super soniq mix)" runs Travis Morrison's vocals through a digital wood-chipper, leaving only spliced yelps and the odd bout of wracked distortion where once a tune stood. Longtime fan Cex's digivamp of "Academy Award" replaces the original's spasmodic energy with supercilious blurps and rollercoaster sampling, while Japan's Quruli graft ethereal drones and slippery fretless bass atop Travis's guide vocal in their liquefied take on "A Life of Possibilities". Also of note are (12 Rods member) Ev's seedy and sultry raceway reworking of "The City", and Deadverse's (featuring members of Dälek) molasses-paced slow-burn take on "Automatic".
While it's a fitting tribute to a band who always went their own way, as remix records go, A People's History of the Dismemberment Plan is a decisively middle-of-the-road affair. By forsaking professionals for amateurs, the Plan has narrowed the scope of their artistic vision; for every stunning reworking, like Deadverse's "Automatic", there's a stinker like ASCDI's predictably bland mix of "Time Bomb" or Cynyc's blasé beat-slapping "Following Through". Though the album was predicated on the notion of being "by the fans for the fans", the result seems a tad short-sided, handcuffed by an allegiance to an uncharted but commendable premise. Wouldn't it have been amazing to hear someone like MF Doom or Dose One get their hands on the Plan?