Musical Waffle: Bye Bye Dillinger

As I was writing last week’s post about my favourite gigs, one of the most difficult tasks was choosing the best gig from those handful of bands I’ve seen a few times who never let me down. Pearl Jam. Neurosis. Converge. Dillinger Escape Plan.

Oh, Dillinger.

There is, quite frankly, nothing quite like a Dillinger Escape Plan gig, in much the same way that there’s nothing quite like a Dillinger Escape Plan album. If you’ve never been acquainted with them, imagine a band trying to play all the musics all at once, whilst simultaneously trying to injure themselves in the most acrobatic way imaginable. I’ve seen guitarists playing the most technical solos imaginable while hanging from their ankles, I’ve seen the singer launch himself from speaker stacks and come back up covered in blood and never miss a beat. I’ve seen him cover himself in excrement in protest at the rest of the bill he’s on and gag on the stench of it. I’ve seen them support major bands and be booed by an entire stadium, and I’ve seen them headline festivals and burn the place to the ground. I’ve named chapters in my books after their songs, and even had their artwork tattooed onto my flesh.

My introduction to Dillinger came back in the days when people would physically make their friends tapes of things to listen to, rather than send them a ‘link’ on their ‘phones’ to ‘listen to’. My friend Barker, one of those people who always seemed to be bestowed with an almost preternatural knowledge of everything you should really be listening to, gave me a tape. A good old-fashioned C90. On one side was Drowningman, (the How They Light Cigarettes in Prison EP and the Rock and Roll Killing Machine album) and the other was Dillinger (Under the Running Board EP and the Calculating Infinity album).

I loved the Drowningman stuff instantly – a cacophony of emo played at a million miles an hour by technically proficient lunatic hardcore kids, but I hated Dillinger. It just didn’t compute in my head. There was no melody there – just endless atonal time changes and screeching guitars. Still, this was a cassette, and if I was out and about and listening to the ‘good’ side, I had two options. I could rewind the tape all the way back, or turn it over and listen to the weirdness on the other side. Rewinding, well, that just took too long, and there was a risk you’d run your battery down. Shit, you might even unspool the whole thing, and you didn’t want to run that risk, not when you lived in a one-HMV town like Sunderland, and there was no earthly way you could find the Drowningman album again. It wasn’t as if you had the internet to magically beam it to you. If you didn’t have a Barker, you were fucked.

So, I’d get to the end of Rock and Roll Killing Machine, and turn it over. I’d play through Calculating Infinity, patiently waiting to get back to Drowningman. Then, over time (it may have been a day, it might have been a month) I was waiting for the tape to cut out hallway through the last Drowningman song, because I just fucking HAD to listen to the Dillinger album again. I fell, hard, and soon this New Jersey mathcore band had completely realigned my taste in music. So started a slightly obsessive relationship.

When they lost their first vocalist, they released an EP with Mike Patton, which retained their bonkers musical dexterity, but coupled it with a wit and oddball pop sensibility that seemed both completely at odds and totally in keeping with their sensibility. They’re just that kind of band. Their first album with the brilliant Greg Puciato cemented some of the musical themes of the Patton ep, and while they lost a lot of fans, I wasn’t one of them. So much so that when we launched Demon Pigeon with an overblown attempt to define the greatest album of the decade, I chose the subsequent album, Ire Works, as the greatest album of the decade.

Now they’re gone. Announcing their new (and mindblowing) new album Dissociation, they’ve said they’ve taken Dillinger as far as they can, and they’re going out on a high. As frustrating and mildly depressing as this may be to their fans, there’s something defiantly ‘them’ about the announcement, and it makes perfect sense. More bands should pay heed to this ethos. How many of us really need to hear what the new Korn album sounds like? (clue: nobody does)

It’s a bit like the short-lived and much loved sitcom, Spaced. I have spent far too much of my adult life wondering what would happen in a third series, but I’m old enough and far enough removed to realise that it’s a really good job I never got to find out. Life has too many disappointments as it is.

So, fare thee well, Dillinger Escape Plan. I’ll definitely be trying to get to some of your final tour. I’ll be there at the front, waving my One Of Us Is The Killer tattoo under your noses in the vague hope that Greg will stop the set to pull me up on stage and acclaim me to the rest of the crowd, let me watch from the side, then the band will take me out for dinner after the gig, and then we’ll all become best friends.

Ahem. Maybe not.

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