(Season of Mist, 2010)
by Paul Stephenson
I suppose that in the interests of full disclosure you should know going into this that I’m a raging homofanboy for all things Dillinger. Throughout their career, when people have fallen in and out of love with the many guises and forms that this band have put across I’ve been pretty equally enamoured of each and every thing they’ve done, up to and including the far poppier ‘Ire Works’, which the eagle eyed out there will remember I named as greatest album of the decade. So take from that what you will, but I was just as nervous as ever to hit play on my most anticipated album of the year.
But of course, from the moment ‘Farewell Mona Lisa’ kicks in, hurtling straight into the action at the sort of speed one normally associates with interstellar travel, there need have been no fears. Instantly recognisable as Dillinger, and yet fresh and yet again evolved from their previous sound, it starts off with admirably techy hardcore that calls to mind the ‘Irony is a Dead Scene’ ep, before crashing into a gigantic chorus, with Greg’s vocal range once again allowing the band to do pretty much whatever they want. When the double kick comes in at the end of the song, I actually giggled the first time I heard it, like a schoolboy who has been told a naughty joke.
Stylistically this flits between the various stages of their career; second track ‘Good Neighbour’ could fit easily onto ‘Calculating Infinity‘, and third track ‘Gold Teeth On A Bum’ sounds like a prime cut from ‘Ire Works’. But while this recalls a lot of the highlights of their previous works, it never feels like a retread, and the energy here is far punkier than they have achieved in the past, something that personally I would put down to the new drumming brought by new drummer Billy Rymer. His drumming is suitably extravagant and insane at times (on ‘Endless Endings’ especially he actually pulls off time changes that will take your breath away) but he also has a heavier approach than the band’s previous sticksmen, and he recalls the gusto of the early years of hardcore. I bet he has a Black Flag tattoo.
While there are definitely moments of melody and the pop-nous they showed off to great success on ‘Ire Works’ this album is a lot heavier than its predecessor. In fact, at times it probably would take ‘Miss Machine’ out for a kicking as well. Having pulled back from the tech more and more over the last few albums, they have clearly rediscovered their taste for it. ‘Endless Endings’ with its ridiculous tempo changes, is probably as insane as anything else they have ever put down. But then it comes up against ‘Widower,’ (which features the piano skills of veteran Bowie alumnus Mike Garson, apparently) which has a chorus that the likes of Justin Timberlake would kill for the ability to write.
Throughout the rest of the album, this albums rises and falls in and out of genres with a consummate ease, and it has to be said that the work here by Tuttle, Rymer and Wienman is stellar throughout. One need only look at the likes of ‘Chinese Whispers’ (which has single written all over it) and the range of tones and moods it fits into its four minutes, or ‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’ which starts off as probably the heaviest thing that anyone will write this year, before segueing into the best pop chorus you’ll hear this year. Honestly. Listen to it again this time next year and tell me if I was wrong. Or then there is closing track ‘Parasitic Twins’ which rounds thing off in a bewilderingly mellow and haunting way, replete with vocal harmonies and guitarist Jeff Tuttle doing the best impression of Maynard Keenan I’ve ever heard.
What has always been interesting about Dillinger is that they have never just been one thing. They play with convention, and the boundaries of their own capabilities, while remaining better at their core abilities than any other band. How many copyists have fallen by the wayside since they exploded onto the scene all those years back? Like Converge, they kept going at what they wanted to do, and as a result have matured into being the best at what they do, and when a band gets to that kind of place in their career, this is the kind of album they show themselves capable of creating. Mercurial, passionate, bonkers and brilliant. In other words, it’s Dillinger.