A Look Back on Dance Gavin Dance’s Mothership

This week marks the one-year anniversary of Dance Gavin Dance’s highly anticipated album Mothership. The album released to massive success, debuting at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, a rare feat for a post-hardcore album. The album additionally enjoyed acclaim from fans and critics alike, with some calling it their best album yet. Why did the album enjoy so much success when its predecessor Instant Gratification received such middling reviews? There are a couple of main reasons.

First, the mixing on Instant Gratification was bad. Like, really bad. Tilian’s vocals completely overshadow the glittering, complex instrumentation behind every song. While Tilian does have a beautiful voice, half of the appeal of Dance Gavin Dance is Will Swan’s eclectic and technical guitar playing. In Mothership, the mixing is much more balanced, allowing for Will and Tilian to complement each other.

Second, the lyrics in Mothership return the band to its darker, more hedonistic roots. Songs like “Chucky vs the Giant Tortoise” and “Chocolate Jackalope” are absolute bangers, with lyrics that focus on celebrating a self-destructive lifestyle. The lyrics represent selfish attitudes about drugs and women in a whimsical, surprisingly endearing fashion. Lyrics like “Failure is painful but lying is fun” and “white 21 is the maximum fun” give the album a rugged but charming rogue-ish appeal.

Despite the darker lyrical themes, the band members come off more as cocky, lovable assholes instead of douchebags. The band retains its trademark goofy, cartoonish charm, but the overall cohesiveness of the project prevents them from feeling immature. The harsher tone goes beyond the lyrics too, as the band forgoes the saccharine sweet pop sound of Instant Gratification for more screaming, more energy, and more breakdowns. Dance Gavin Dance’s trademark funky riffs are there, accompanied perfectly by a more soulful vocal performance from Tilian. The funky vibes and use of unconventional instruments (such as a pan flute on “Young Robot”) help this album avoid post-hardcore clichés to form an experimental yet cohesive project.

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