Album Review: ‘The Dillinger Escape Plan’ (Party Smasher/Season Of Mist’)

No easy routes, no compromises and nothing short of brilliant

When there’s no struggle, victory is worthless: that’s [b]Dillinger[/b]’s motto for their fourth album. Music isn’t meant to be easily digestible; they know there’s nothing wrong with hating something on first listen but maybe giving it one more try out of interest, and then another and another until you’re getting the track titles tattooed on your torso.

[b]‘Option Paralysis’[/b] follows this maxim to a tee. Love the anger of their early work? Great, there’s enough sugary choruses here to make a diabetic detonate. Enjoy the melodic rock furrow they ploughed on the last two records? Eat grindcore, pussy. Like songs to stay in one place? Suckle on its Latin-infused piano lounge jazz number, you poseur. But what on paper sounds petulant and needlessly oblique is, in fact, a passionate masterpiece that contains as many moods and emotions as it’s possible to imagine music can conjure.

The roots of its greatness lie in [b]Dillinger[/b]’s past. The melodic experiments first tripped upon on ’04’s [b]‘Miss Machine’[/b] are rendered brightly yet violently, as on the vast [b]‘Gold Teeth On A Bum’[/b], but sinister closer [b]‘Parasitic Twins’[/b]’s sweet doo-wop harmonies confirm they’re still as able to unsettle without resorting to shock tactics. [b]‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’[/b] winks at both [a]Faith No More[/a] and hardcore pioneers [b]Coalesce[/b], but remains thrillingly separate from both. The likes of [b]‘Chinese Whispers’[/b] and [b]‘Room Full Of Eyes’[/b], which nods towards the electronic bent of ’07’s [b]‘Ire Works’[/b], sound tantalisingly familiar to other [b]Dillinger[/b] classics thanks to [b]Greg Puciato[/b]’s startling vocal range, but never stay close enough to any discernible template to be anything other than beguiling. And then there’s [b]‘Widower’[/b], which features the talents of [b]Mike Garson[/b] (the avant-garde pianist who played that barmy solo on [b]Bowie[/b]’s [b]‘Aladdin Sane’[/b]) and sounds like what’s piped through the lobby of hell itself, and [b]‘I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t’[/b], which dissolves head-spinningly complex metal into a liquid Latin swing. All utterly distinct from, well, any music any band have ever made. And all comprehensively brilliant.

Every tangled note of [b]‘Option Paralysis’[/b] drips with honesty and endeavour, and it shines like a beacon of integrity in a world that’s been focus-grouped into the dirt.

[b]Rob Parker[/b]

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