The Dismemberment Plan: "Waiting"
from Uncanney Valley (Partisan; 2013)
By Corey Beasley | 13 August 2013
“Waiting,” the early single from the reunited Dismemberment Plan’s upcoming record, Uncanney Valley, makes a remarkable amount of sense as a point of continuity from their last proper record, 2001’s Change. Musically, “Waiting” sees the Plan in the head-bobbing lounge-funk-indiepop mode of that record’s “Following Through” or “Ellen and Ben.” Jason Caddell floats a breezy, clean-toned riff over a one-handed Morrison keyboard hook and Eric Axelson’s deep, jittery bass groove, while the inimitable Joe Easley keeps the track’s disco beat interesting with octopus-armed fills on every measure. The band’s chops haven’t faded in the slightest over the past decade-and-change, and as an instrumental composition, “Waiting” should’ve been the manna we diehards have spent the last twelve years hungering for in the post-Plan deserts.
But the Dismemberment Plan aren’t an instrumental band; in fact, they’re one of the more hyper-verbal bands of the last two decades, a group that functions as much on its frontman’s breathless wordplay and precise emotive observations as it does on melodic hooks and tricky rhythms. Morrison’s solo career in the 2000s was infamously spotty at best, but it was always possible he simply didn’t work as well without Caddell, Axelson, and Easley backing him up. “Waiting” suggests the problem might not be as simple as all that. Morrison delivers the lyrics in a ham-fisted half-rap that sucks away the impact of the song’s uplifting, don’t-need-you-when-I’ve-got-me message. Even he, a guy who once managed to the lyric “Put your hands in the air / And wave ‘em like you just don’t care” into a sincere, entirely convincing moment of emotional renewal, can’t pull off a line like “Well, look who it is / Been a little while since you been up in my biz.”
It’s a shame, because the track’s narrative—the story of an ex wandering into the narrator’s favorite bar, an accident that makes him realize he’s got enough love and promise in his life to let go of his lover and her self-centered commitment issues—is the kind of clever, off-kilter story Morrison can write like no one else. He lets his penchant for treating syllables like playgrounds get the best of him, and though the feeling of the chorus rings true, its insistence on packing a litany of rhymes for “waiting” into a few short seconds can’t help but come across as silly. Morrison’s sense of humor—his ability to wink at himself and his audience in equal measure—has always been an integral part of the Plan’s appeal, but “Waiting” stumbles into self-parody. Still, enough of the band’s signature chemistry is here to keep the proper release of Uncanney Valley a more-than-exciting prospect. If it doesn’t work this time around, there’s always 2025 for another reunion tour.