For frenetic indie foursome The Dismemberment Plan, breaking up has certainly been hard to do. Despite announcing their own dismemberment in January, the farewell tour has stretched into September, with their final show in Japan set for Saturday at Shibuya Nest before a farewell gig in Washington, D.C. For those who will miss this sold-out show, the double CD “The People’s History of the Dismemberment Plan” may provide some consolation.
Since emerging from D.C.’s postpunk scene nearly a decade ago, the Plan are often compared to local heroes, Fugazi, and their clang-and-wail disciples at the Dischord label. Yet the Plan’s postmodern pop and cerebral dance-punk wriggles free from most musical nomenclature, with band members citing Joni Mitchell, Mary J. Blige and Steely Dan among their influences.
For “People’s History,” the Plan’s Web site offered complete MP3 files of individual studio tracks (the drum track, guitar track, etc.). They invited fans to submit their own remixes, of which 12 were chosen to accompany the originals. The resulting two-disc set share identical track lists, but very little else. Disc One’s retrospective displays what made the Plan so incredible in the first place: air-tight melodies, searing hooks, mercurial vocals delivering sharp lyrical narratives and drum work that’s as muscular as 100 nail guns performing the Art Blakey catalog. On the remix disc, fans digitally dismember these same tracks, rendering them nearly unrecognizable. Spastic punk and minor-key pathos become spooky dub, silicon-sputtering acid-jazz or the occasional laptop meltdown. The reconfiguration of “Superpowers,” however, is one of few to retain the feel of the original. Fusing a bare vocal track to an acoustic guitar sample (The Faces’ “Ooh La La,” perhaps?), this intimate synth-pop anthem is transformed into a bohemian folk ballad.
Disc One alone is worth laying out the yen for, but the remixes and an additional five-track bonus disc bundled with “People’s History” sweeten the deal considerably (three for the price of one!). These guys should break up more often.
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