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The Dismemberment Plan - A People's History Of The Dismemberment Plan

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Artist: The Dismemberment Plan

Album: A People's History Of The Dismemberment Plan

Label: Desoto

Review date: Oct. 2, 2003

As a critic, I'm supposed to at least pretend to be objective. But I'll drop the pretense and tell you straight up: I love the Dismemberment Plan. I saw the Plan for the first time in late 1998, after they'd finished making their best album, Emergency & I. I was a kid, deeply into songwriterly indie rock (Built To Spill, Sugar, Sebadoh) but becoming aware of its limitations, and here was a band doing the songwriterly indie rock thing better than just about anybody. Not only that, but they also presented a way out of what Tom Ewing and Maura Johnston once called indie rock's tendency toward "influence inbreeding": the Plan's music reflected the influence not only of Gang of Four and Nation of Ulysses but also A Tribe Called Quest and drum ‘n’ bass. This was a band that spoke vividly and articulately about twenty-something life while playing funk rhythms and doing robot dances around the stage.

So it pains me to say that A People's History Of The Dismemberment Plan is... well, it's not very good. It's a collection of remixes by Plan fans that mostly fails to convince me that remixing the Dismemberment Plan is a good idea. The results from the few well-known artists here are mixed. Cex's glitchy take on "Academy Award" is competent but not especially inspired. Deadverse (aka New Jersey hip-hop crew Dälek) presents a dark, one-chord version of "Automatic" that reveals that what the Dismemberment Plan did well and what Dälek do well have very little to do with one another. 12 Rods' Ev offers the best cut here, a breezy remix of "The City" that would actually work on the dancefloor.

The other nine mixes on A People's History were arranged by lesser known artists. Cynyc's take on "Following Through" is the best of the bunch – it almost has too many ideas, but its well-conceived vocal harmonies and a satisfying crescendo before the last chorus save it. ASCDI's "Time Bomb" is the most texturally detailed track here, and it's also got a simple and effective drum loop.

Several cuts aren't nearly so successful, however. Justin Norvell's "The Other Side" uses only Travis Morrison's vocal and places a rather ordinary rock song behind it; Quruli and Noise McCartney remove the funk from "Life Of Possibilities" and don't add much of interest in its place. Erik Gundel's remix is the worst offender: "Superpowers" becomes a lo-fi, two-chord indie rock song with out-of-tune vocals, effectively turning the Plan into 764-Hero.

The rest of the remixes are fine, in that they occasionally have inspired moments and don't offend. But even the best of them pale in comparison to actual Dismemberment Plan songs, which work on a number of levels that don't translate well to the remix format – the Plan's excellent rhythm section, Eric Axelson and Joe Easley, is almost completely absent here, all the asymmetrical time signatures are gone, and Morrison's lyrics are often reduced to choruses or half-choruses. It's unlikely that you'll want to hear any of these remixes, even the better ones, more than once or twice. Which is convenient, because you can download them all for free at the Plan's website.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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