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Track-By-Track

Dillinger Escape Plan's Option Paralysis Reviewed Track-By-Track
Noel Gardner , March 3rd, 2010 11:39

Noel Gardner gets his ears around Dillinger Escape Plan's new album Option Paralysis

Farewell, Mona Lisa

Starting with ten seconds of mournfully chiming guitar, you'll be aware – if you've heard, like, anything at all by The Dillinger Escape Plan – that this is the equivalent of WWE, when the Undertaker made all the lights in the arena go out and then went ham on his opponent. Stretched wrestling similes aside, 'Farewell, Mona Lisa' explodes into neo-grindcore drums, Ben Weinman trying to invent fire on his fretboard and Greg Pucciato betraying what, for him, is a rare moment of confusion and self-doubt: "But what am I supposed to say? / Oh sorry I guess I forgot / You think you could tell me again? / Please? / I don't remember / What am I supposed to think? / What am I supposed to feel? / There's no feeling in this place." About two minutes in, you may mistake some percussive clanking in the background for your housemate preparing food in an adjacent room. Or maybe that was just me. The gloomy croon it leads into, meanwhile, invites comparisons to Faith No More – not for the first time in DEP's career, and not one likely to be 'just me'.

Good Neighbor

Long-term aficionados of this quintet may well spot similarities between the staccato discord of this track's intro, and that of '43% Burnt' – the second track on Calculating Infinity, DEP's gamechanging debut full-length from 1999. As a whole, though, 'Good Neighbor' is decidedly less head-upside-smacking than that was; the middle section of this, by the standards we're dealing with here at least, is kinda catchy, and kinda orthodox metal-tinged hardcore. Pucciato bellows "Hey there you fucking bum / Look what you have become," at a nebulous adversary, conceivably channeling Lou Koller from Sick Of It All or Agnostic Front's Roger Miret as much as anyone more... cerebral. Not too shabby, though.

Gold Teeth On A Bum

More bums. Are we picking apart an album or a Mr Motivator workout VHS, I wonder to an empty room? More crypto-Faith No More segments, too. When these cats teamed up with Mike Patton for a one-off EP in 2002 (the one with the versh of Aphex's 'Come To Daddy' that recalled Samuel Johnson's woman preaching / dog walking on its hind legs analogy), precisely what hypnotic spell did he cast over Dillinger that caused them to drop in a tribute or three on each of their albums since? Aside from this, the incongruous string (sounds like a violin, strike me down if wrong) plucking offsets the polished muscles of the central riffage nicely, and Billy Rymer's drums sound great on this.

Crystal Morning

Is that title a quasi-Nazi reference? You scamps, you. No matter; 'Crystal Morning' is textbook ADD DEP, all laboratory mice raced along guitar necks until a mutatingly moshable guitar break takes control. Lyrically a classic of the you don't need to know what it means, the words sound rad placed together and shouted" school ("All the nights of broken glass drown the screaming / Choke your breath and hide to pass the time / When the wrath comes where will they turn"), it lasts precisely two minutes and bazookas straight into...

Endless Endings

The solo that rears up around this song's half-minute mark isn't the first on Option Paralysis (duh), but it is the first to vividly recall the 'shredder' guitarists who rose to fame in the Eighties, and who naysayers have been keen to invoke when naysaying The Dillinger Escape Plan. Hey beardo, did I just catch you laughing at Yngwie and doing the "YOU HAVE UNLEASHED THE FUCKING FURY" line* to your dumb friends? And yet these guys are 'acceptable' and 'envelope-pushing' despite being just as masturbatory and self-involved. Huh. I'm playing devil's advocate, obviously. 'Endless Endings' isn't a classic, but there's some nice little nods to Nineties Dischord post-hardcore – Fugazi and Bluetip, say – around the one-minute mark and again near the close.

*I do know this was a hoax, before you say anything.

Widower

So this is a genuine curveball. Mike Garson, a jazz pianist whose name was made through his contributions to Bowie's Aladdin Sane, provides keys on this six-and-a-half-minute Olmec head of a centrepiece. Limpid throughout – it wouldn't be reaching too hard to suggest Bill Evans' spectre – and practically horizontal at the inception, quite how Garson and The Dillinger Escape Plan manage to combine this with a thudding bass riff and Meshuggah-recalling guitar chug, without making it a preposterous disaster, is an issue to tax scientists of sound for generations to come. But it works. That this finds Pucciato breaking the habit of his DEP tenure, by writing about a relationship without resorting to rotgut bitterness, probably helps. ("He's going through transitional stages in his life right now," confides Ben Weinman in the press biog, thoughtfully.)

Room Full Of Eyes

"Little honey I needed / I needed a reminder from you / There sure ain't nothin' like the sight of your fine skin / From across the room." Ah – so this is the one where he graduates to looking for breakup sex, projected the writer. Perhaps appropriately, this one has a dirtier feel than most of Option Paralysis, the vox buried further in the mix (and flecked with some pleasingly raddled David Yow perspiration) before a factory-precise sludge/doom riff takes hold at 2:20 – if you're not checking the display, you'll probably think it's the start of the next track. Less immediate than many of the other nine songs, time spent with 'Room Full Of Eyes' satisfies.

Chinese Whispers

For better or worse, it's feasible that this might be used as evidence that Dillinger have gone a bit softsoap. It's a solid performer, but apart from the frantically fucked time changes apparent in the early part of its third minute, much of it sounds equally like At The Drive-In or Mclusky as the DEP that cemented their rep a decade or so back. There isn't really a chorus, mind, so don't spend too long waiting for it to kick in at Skabz, or whatever your local metal club is called.

I Wouldn't If You Didn't

A song of extremes, on an album which specialises in precisely that, by a band who... etc. Another of the group's showoffishly intro-free numbers – the showing off part comes when they do it live without fucking it up – the climactic guitar skree around 1:25 is equal parts Skullflower and Kerry King. Shortly, eccentric jazz piano is married to radio-rock anthemia, before another near-grindcore beatdown returns about a minute later.

Parasitic Twins

Vocally, Mike Patton must once again be called up for comparison service, although Pucciato is histrionic enough to also inject a few cc of Chris Cornell into lyrics like "Although I miss you I'll never say I do / Bleed like the rain that's falling / Cut me through and through." Eccentric from the opening string parts onwards, The Dillinger Escape Plan choose to go out not with a banger, but with a whisper – lots of whispering, in fact, courtesy of guitarist Jeff Tuttle. Caps doffed to axehand Weinman , too,for the solo that closes out this bugger – not only does it sound like it's coming through a knackered ham radio, it also resembles Grand Funk more than it does Marty Friedman. And if you can't get behind that as a preferred option, well, I question what kind of monster you are, frankly.

Option Paralysis will almost certainly not convert anyone who previously found The Dillinger Escape Plan a vulgar, showboating aural trial. At best, it might convince them that there is the germ of a listenable, if sardonic, pop-metal band here – although these tendencies were already in evidence on their two previous LPs, Miss Machine and Ire Works. Over forty minutes, though, we find them running with their pop side, doubling back, chasing their own shadow and turning in a display of supple acrobatics which show that they're still the fittest butcher's dogs in the murky world of mathematical metal.

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