Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Dismemberment Plan

  • The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified [DeSoto, 1997] A-
  • Emergency and I [DeSoto, 1999] A-
  • Juno & the Dismemberment Plan [Jade Tree, 2001] Choice Cuts
  • Change [DeSoto, 2001] ***
  • Uncanney Valley [Partisan, 2013] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified [DeSoto, 1997]
They're D.C boys who sound sort of the way Primus might if Primus enjoyed a normal sex life. Not that they aren't frustrated; "The Ice of Boston" stands tall in the overcrowded canon of not-getting-laid songs. But their affective impulses are well-integrated, and they're bright and well-meaning enough that I'm here to assure them eros will give them a ride eventually. I know from the tunes, surprisingly thoughtful for posthardcore. And from the way the guitars and such come crashing down to break up a good party and set off a better one. A-

Emergency and I [DeSoto, 1999]
Hardcore's gotten confusing for oldsters; in these post-Fugazi days, a lot of it sounds like jazz. But it sure beats the folk-rock that used to sound like jazz. Here's a D.C. unit that convened in 1993 and made this third album on Interscope's dime during the merger mess. The only way they're punk anymore is that there aren't very many of them and that none of them seems to be playing a keyboard even though most of them can. What they are instead is a much rarer thing, no matter what Ron Sexsmith and Richard Buckner pretend--thoughtful, quirky, mercurial young adults skilled at transforming doubt into music. Tracking his feelings through irregular structures and jumpy rhythms, Travis Morrison is always lyrical, even celebratory--full of regrets like many honest men, never ever a sad sack. A-

Juno & the Dismemberment Plan [Jade Tree, 2001]
"The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich" Choice Cuts

Change [DeSoto, 2001]
giving their displacements a flow ("Come Home," "Ellen & Ben") ***

Uncanney Valley [Partisan, 2013]
Appreciated by old fans and dismissed by "critics," a word still loosely applied to anybody permitted to post music reviews on a website someone else runs, this reunion album means so much more than the average so-called comeback not just because Travis Morrison is smarter than most "critics" and possibly you and conceivably me, but on this evidence better balanced. He's happily married with a kid. He's not vaguely a punk anymore. His musical side will never consume him again. But he's still both a punchy lyricist and a guy who'll grab a good hook wherever one pokes out its business end. The centerpiece follows the grateful marriage song "Lookin'" with the cautionary parenthood song "Daddy Was a Real Good Dancer," a tribute that's also a pledge not to follow in Daddy's footsteps--first "He had me and then he threw his dancin' shoes away," then, if only Daddy was still around, "I'd hand him my baby girl/And play some rock and roll." A-