It’s a funny thing, switching singers. Countless groups have a singer who is synonymous with the band. Such has been the case for Dance Gavin Dance, especially with the five-act drama that they’ve been through. The scene has seen few bands with a higher profile lead singer than Jonny Craig, whose antics this article could easily be about for more pages than anyone would like to read. Yet, if there ever was one band that could step up and prove that they are more than their lead singer, it’s Dance Gavin Dance. The future was uncertain when Craig left, but the talent of the rest of the band was never in doubt and could easily compensate for the adaption of even a mediocre vocalist. Though as it turns out, Tilian Pearson is a phenomenal singer, and Acceptance Speech is a truly exceptional album.
A couple of years back, I saw Dance Gavin Dance perform live at The Rex in Pittsburgh. At the height of the MacBook scandal, Pearson filled in for a few stops. I’d never seen the band without Craig before, and quite frankly, with Pearson at the helm I didn’t miss him. I actually hoped he would have replaced Craig full time. Then, a few months passed until the day I learned I’d gotten my wish.
While the first track, “Jesus H. Macey”, gets things off to a great start, the album’s low point, “The Robot with Human Hair Pt. 4”, immediately follows. Musically, this track lies a few rungs below the frenzy that comprises the latter half of this album. Lyrically, I’d say it’s the worst, with lines that cause more eye-rolls than head nobs.
Now for the good part of the album, which is the entire remainder of Acceptance Speech. This review would get repetitive very quickly if I were to go over each song in my usual fashion, as they’re all fabulous. Pearson brings a different style to the mic than Craig did. After pouring over the discography multiple times, I’ve concluded that to compare the two is to indulge in the tired cliche of comparing apples and oranges, so let’s just ignore Happiness here (sorry Kurt Travis). Pearson’s vocals are noticeably higher, yet very smooth, though lacking that bravado Craig brought to the vocals. That being said, there are a couple of points where Pearson hits a note so high, you’d almost think you were listening to early A Skylit Drive. While I’m hesitant to say the rest of the band’s sound changed completely around Pearson, it has changed.
The choppy vocals and chugging basslines of “Demo Team” are just two of the things they do to amaze in this album. If you were hoping for a few more of those jazzy, funk sections in Downtown Battle Mountain Pt. II, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they aren’t here. Though you will have some interesting things to hear in “Turn Off the Lights, I’m Watching Back to the Future pt. II”, the final song on the album. Dance Gavin Dance tries a lot of new things with this album, and they work.
Acceptance Speech ranks highly among the already impressive repertoire of Dance Gavin Dance albums. It has some of my favourite tracks they’ve ever done, such as “The Jiggler” which features unclean vocalist Jon Mess at his absolute best. A couple of sub-par moments in the lyrics keep this album from perfection in my book. This album is different, not a far departure, but not “the same” either. Dance Gavin Dance has overcome adversity to bring you must-buy hardcore.