Dance Gavin Dance is an experimental hardcore sextet from California. They are one of the most inventive bands on the scene, incorporating jazz-rock elements with R&B elements to create an experience the hardcore scene has never heard before.
Dance Gavin Dance is dismissed by many fans of the genre for their tendency to create drama, whether by the constant rotation of new members or lack of concern for their fan base. This was made apparent when lead vocalist Johnny Craig swindled numerous fans in a scam involving the online sale of his MacBook. Regardless of their rocky past, this album deserves a listen.
“Downtown Battle Mountain II” is the apparent sequel to the band’s debut album, but to approach it that way will limit and frustrate listeners. “Downtown Battle Mountain II” is a sequel only in the sense that all the original members are back. This album combines sounds from the other three into a more focused and coherent effort.
The dueling vocals from “Downtown Battle Mountain” are present, as are the bizarre lyrics and angst that made up their self-titled CD, also known as “Death Star.” The funk and soul that made “Happiness” so accessible holds “Downtown Battle Mountain II” together. It will take you on a roller-coaster ride through Dance Gavin Dance’s career.
The first track, “Spooks,” is the pinnacle of the band’s modern sound. It begins with an atmospheric guitar riff complementing Johnny Craig’s crooning voice. He provides a calm before the storm of Jon Mess’s angst-filled yelps. “Downtown Battle Mountain II” is fueled by these twists on the traditional hardcore genre.
The next track, “Pounce Bounce,” keeps it interesting by having the two vocalists compete for your attention. And lyrics like “What’s it like to be an Atheist? Are you okay with suicide?” are edgy and prove that Dance Gavin Dance demands your undivided attention.
“Robot With the Human Hair Pt 2 1/2” is one of the best yet, as Swan creates some groovy guitar to pump your fists to. The back and forth vocals of Mess and Craig are at their finest. Tracks like “Need Money” are meant to move the crowd physically and emotionally with lyrics about the hypocrisy of certain religious beliefs versus human nature.
Solo tracks from Craig – “Thug City” and “Blue Dream” – slow it down a bit. “Purple Reign” ends the album on a high note as the guitar and vocals are top-notch and require multiple listens before all the layers of guitar, drums, and vocals hit you. This track has strong, genuine lyrics about a struggling father-son relationship.
“Downtown Battle Mountain II” is not the sequel fans were expecting, but a combination of the best elements from the previous albums. If you are a fan, there are elements for you to enjoy; if you have never heard of this band, this is the album to try. Dance Gavin Dance pulls no punches on this one.