Record Review - 4 December 05 2001

What a strange name, the Dismemberment Plan. Exactly what did Travis Morrison, Jason Caddell, Eric Axelson and Joe Easley have planned for their little indie quartet when they came together in mid-'90s in Washington, D.C.? Did they plan to dismember and disfigure rock?

Far from it, actually. Over the course of four albums and three EPs, they've managed to carve their own ingenious image through skillfully distilling — not dismantling — the best elements of quirky, jerky post-punk and depositing them into their own blend. At least that's what they've done until now.

On Change, the follow-up to 1999's critically acclaimed Emergency & I, there seems to be a little of everything taken off the top. That is to say, Dismemberment's famously furious funk is a little less over the top. So when it comes to appropriate names, they at least got Change just right.

The Dismemberment Plan's Change, as it were, could be their decision to approach recording less manically. While the songs are more settled, the band hasn't settled on a singular sound; there's still plenty of funk and punk, rock and roll. But they're willing to ride the grooves longer and deeper. Change is more understated, but the instrumentation — within new limits — is still springy. The bass is still strikingly limber, the percussion still impressively polyrhythmic, the chords still cutting, the lyrics still detailed. Without losing their disjointed, Talking Heads-meets-Gang of Four-influenced bounce, the Dismemberment Plan have simply gone from primal to paced.

Maybe because of age, wisdom or both, they don't seem to be racing to the finish line quite as quickly. But they're still going in the right direction, and the measured stride leaves more time to enjoy.

The Dismemberment Plan plays Fri., Dec. 7, at the Echo Lounge.??