We generally don't take aging indie rockers seriously when they sing, "Throw your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care," but we'll make an exception for Travis Morrison, the singer of Washington, D.C.'s Dismemberment Plan. Even a hipper-than-thou punk-rock crowd couldn't resist shakin' what they mama gave 'em when the Plan took the stage at the Grog Shop last December, and we know why.
The band's breakthrough album, Emergency and I, is full of disco-powered rave-ups that inject the classic post-punk guitar jangle of Fugazi and the Pixies with a highly combustible load of hormonal dance-floor madness. Which isn't to say that the Plan is a one-trick pony. On its latest album, Change, the group dialed back the whiplash factor a couple of notches, yielding a calmer, poppier record.
Eric Axelson's funky, grooving bass lines and Joe Easley's finely nuanced drumming show a maturity that owes more to R&B than to disco, while guitarist Jason Caddell generously shares his time up front with a bevy of mood-enhancing string parts and Moog swells. Even Morrison, who was always prone to angst-ridden vocal explosions on the group's earlier efforts, has lowered his Saturday-night fever, settling on a temperate delivery that melds Dave Matthews with Eddie Vedder and provides the perfect medium for his poetic lyrics, which can make everyday observations seem like mind-expanding philosophy. What it all boils down to is a coming-of-age that makes Change the group's most powerful work to date and one of the best pop albums of 2001.