The Dismemberment Plan – Live In Japan 2011
Record Label: Bad News Records
Release Date: June 1, 2011
I miss the days when nostalgia was hard. When you had to embellish stories because you couldn’t remember the conversations. When you “thought” that’s what happened. Now memories are a couple of clicks away. Which, I guess, is ok, because most of you are degenerate alcoholics (join the club!) anyway. But sometimes the fun of having a memory is the ambiguity of it. I don’t know, there’s something very sociologically interesting to me about how different people remember the same event. Obviously one of the places this sort of “how I saw it” mentality carries over is music, concerts and the like. What a song meant, what song it even was, and who was there to hear it can change drastically between friends. So when a band gets back together for some shows, and when that band is seminal (I hate that word!) post-punk new-whatever rockers The Dismemberment Plan, and when that show is in Japan, it will naturally bring up some widely varied conversations between 35 year-old fathers of two with fading 7-Up Spot tattoos.
But the second the nostalgia ends, there is only one question left: how do they sound NOW? Well, in this case, pretty dang impressive. This two disc set basically contains every great D-Plan song, including my absolute favorite, “The City.” Plus, the recording quality is so good here, it’s like listening to a studio version of every song. And while some songs receive minor reinterpretations, for the most part we are left with over an hour of classic, take-you-back tunes. When the band breaks into the freakout opening of “Gyroscope,” it’s hard not to become flooded with thoughts of all sorts. But it’s also a nifty exercise to juxtapose the band when the song was written and the present, when they're considerably older but no less passionate. Because in terms of a live album like this, when the band isn’t that old, you’re not wondering so much if the band can keep up, but wondering if they still feel as attached to these songs as you are. And in terms of D-Plan, it’s clear that these songs mean just as much to them as they do to us.
When “Time Bomb” gets going with the lines, “I am a poison,” it’s one of those powerful moments when you not only re-love this band, but also wish a little too hard that you were at the damn concert. And that, to me, is another necessity for any live album. It’s not enough to hear the band run through “What Do You Want Me To Say” or “Girl O’Clock.” You have to want to see them play it; you have to want that experience of watching Joe Easley bang his drums to wacky rhythms, and see Travis Morrison strain through the chorus of “A Life of Possibilities.”
Perhaps, and this is just a perhaps, the other quality a live album of a defunct band must contain is the ability to win new converts. But I’m less worried about that than I am about the chance the band may ruin all this and write a new record. That might sound counter-intuitive to say about a band I so transparently adore, but a flawless set like this means there is no reason to tarnish what is already so monumental. Songs like the blissed-out “Memory Machine” or “Ellen and Ben,” with its air-tight storytelling, don’t need new brothers and sisters. The Dismemberment Plan has left a legacy that needs no additional chapters. They’ve left us with memories that we don’t have to strain to remember. I’ll be content with that every time.