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The Dismemberment Plan
Change
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A year and a half ago you couldnít turn around without tripping over The Dismemberment Plan. They were a virtual touring machine, playing every sleazy dive, basement, pool hall and backyard BBQ from DC to Anchorage. When they werenít on stage they were doing interview after interview, photoshoot after photoshoot, in-store after in-store, birthday party after birthday party. Before long, you saw more of them then your own family -- and to put it mildly, youíd had just about enough of the D-Plan. Listening to the groupís fourth long-player, Change, you canít help but believe they were thinking the exact same thing.

While not necessarily a total departure, Change sees the group tinkering quite extensively with the formula that, after so many years, finally brought them to some level of global prominence. Thereís nothing here as utterly spastic as !ís "Soon to be Ex-Quaker", as demonically grooving as Emergency & Iís "A Life of Possibilities" or as steadfastly rocking as ...is Terrifiedís "Do the Standing Still" -- which is a shame, really. While the nervous energy that has always been a key ingredient of the groupís sound (on record and otherwise) remains firmly intact, a newfound sense of responsibility and road-worn weariness occasionally rears its head, putting a bit of a damper on this otherwise upbeat record.

This time out, lead singer/lyricist Travis Morrison appears to be exorcising some rather serious religious, social and personal demons. On "Sentimental Man", he professes that "There is no heaven, and thereís no hell" -- which, whether stated in a serious or a joking manner, alludes to deeper questions brewing deep within his psyche. The somber torch song "Come Home" is a stately pop song in which Morrison ruminates about his life on the road and the toll it has taken on his personal relationships. Whether he originally intended it or not, the lyrics Morrison penned for Change have inexplicably altered the overall tone of the record.

But old fans need not worry; itís not all placid self-reflection and meditative solitude around Changeís way. On a few occasions, the D-Plan of old comes out of hiding to wreak some havoc. "Secret Curse" is a joyous affirmation of the bandís songwriting prowess. Sounding not unlike a head-on collision of Cheap Trick and Chic, the song writhes and bucks its way into your brain, then slowly works its way to your arms and legs, causing you to flail about the room like a seven year-old in the midst of a ferocious sugar buzz. "Pay for the Piano" would not have sounded out of place on Emergency & I, and the roiling "Time Bomb" is a dusky, vaguely Cure-styled rocker that rides a crest of loose percussion, wicked time changes and vigorously strummed guitars to a gloriously dour finale. While they might be rocking out less often these days, these boys can still stir up quite a racket when they put their minds to it.

Though not as viscerally enthralling as any of their previous efforts, Change is the follow-up record that The Dismemberment Plan simply had to make -- an album filled with dizzying highs, personal lows and just about every emotion, mood and feeling in between. A "mature" record for those who donít like "mature" records, Change is our first glimpse of the older, wiser and somewhat more sedate Dismemberment Plan -- the group you just canít wait to see more of.

-- Jason Jackowiak
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