Dillinger Escape Plan - Irony is a Dead Scene
Epitaph Records 2002
Mike Patton has a list of demands. From his days in Faith No More and Mr. Bungle where he spent his time vocally genre-hopping like a motherfucker and doing it better than anyone else, it would only seem fitting that he somehow ended up with Dillinger Escape Plan. Bringing FNM and Mr. Bungle, along with a few of the gothic elements of Fantomas with him, he makes an unbelievably brilliant entry and simultaneous exit on the Plan's new EP, Irony is a Dead Scene, and thus sets up an impossible list of demands.
The first of which is to accept anyone else even attempting the vocals the EP's songs. So much of personality and visceral quality of the album lies in Patton's vocals, which complement the classically dizzying time signatures of Dillinger Escape Plan. Yes, Dimitri was good and his performance on Calculating Infinity was superb, a roaring mess of vocals that dripped with intensity. However, Patton successfully does what few other hardcore singers do, and definitely does it far better than any of them ever have.
He adds dynamics.
Which leads to the second demand: accepting the psychotic dramatist-gone-screamer vocals. Regardless of your opinion of the place of histrionics in music, the classic sound of Patton's growl ("When Good Dogs Do Bad Things") as he menaces the listener with, "A scabby ketchup bottle and a two-dollar bill / I guess its time to pay the bill, but you know I never will / I'm hungry still..." and then shifts into a high-pitched squeal, reminiscent of a typical Zorn squelch is simply amazing. The low growl, the sicko-neighbor-next-door spoken word, all done with such finesse that you feel just sad that no one else is able to pull it off nearly as well, if they're even trying at this point.
Musically, the album lies somewhere between the band's first album and Calculating Infinity. The chaotic, ADD-directed time changes are present, as always, but there are also several places where the band pauses to take a breath and play with a more minimal approach. "Hollywood Squares" is the most kinetic of all four tracks, a four minute exercise in endurance as the band slams their way to a crashing ending. "Pig Latin," after a machine gun exchange between Patton and the band, shifts gears into a slow, ponderous bridge that takes its time to complete and then it's back to the staccato exchange. Even Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy" manages to become something entirely the band's - drummer Chris Pennie's performance, especially toward the song's climax is unbelievably complex. Turn up the volume and just listen to him. Amazing.
Irony is a Dead Scene stands as one of the most visceral and challenging hardcore releases in the past five years. To say that this is the best album of the year is a ridiculous, pretentious claim. However, I'm more than willing to say that it one of the best and is an incredible reinvention of an already distinct and challenging sound that the band has created with each release.
- john sant