#alternateuniversealbum is a feature in which we get people to tell us which album they’d choose if they had to leave earth today and go to a brand new universe empty of our music. Would they choose something to comfort themselves or would they choose something to help whatever may live or come to live in this new universe.
Emergency & I – The Dismemberment Plan
When asked to write about an album I would hypothetically take to another Universe, the D.C. dance-rock exponents’ magnum opus Emergency & I was pretty much the only album I could see fit for the task. There are albums I listen to far more these days, records I have spent a larger part of my life cultivating a loving relationship with, and I did have to question to what extent an album so rooted in the concerns of this world would fare in an alternate one.
The record opens with the oft-imitated but never bettered falsetto of Travis Morrison, over some of the warmest and weirdest synth beds in music, narrating in the second person (crucially) the concerns and grievances of a turn-of-the-millennium listener losing their vitality in the wake of internet-bound anonymity. ‘A Life of Possibilities’ rallies against any sense of monotony with its outro giving volume to these concerns in a way that’s sure to stir anyone in any universe to their emotional core.
Emergency and I goes on to explore ever-present themes of religion (as staged in the bruising relationship breakup dialogue of ‘What Do You Want Me To Say?’), heartbreak and remembrance; in the irresistible but off-kilter dance track ‘Gyroscope’ and quasi-rap Dylan-fronting-the-Talking-Heads-on-speed majesty of closer ‘Back and Forth’ respectively. Morrison also essentially presents the devastating conceit of Eternal Sunshine… 6 years ahead on ‘Memory Machine’ and gives his best ever vocal performance on the perfect dissection of alienation within a metropolis ‘The City’ (which may or may not have gotten a lot of spins on Kelly Clarkson’s Walkman circa 2003: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7UrFYvl5TE). The emotional sophistication and passion with which this immense ground is covered is one of the many elements that makes Emergency & I so beloved by so many listeners.
Electronics in guitar music, like the lovably primitive but striking MS Paint-designed cover art, have come a long way since Emergency… but the tones and rhythms here, man-made or otherwise, have a human quality to them as natural as the compulsion to sing along with FOMO-lullaby ‘You Are Invited’ on every listen. As an encapsulation of pre-millennial malaise, as a collection of 12 songs as lovingly indebted to the pop sensibilities of Madonna as they are to fellow pre-emo stalwarts Fugazi and Braniac, and as a record that demands and provides an intensely personal response, Emergency & I is the perfect record to take to another Universe to celebrate and lament the strictures of this one in equal measure.
Emmett Cruddas is a third year student at Edinburgh University. He studies English Literature. Emmett was born in London and, as well as being Head of Music at Freshair.org.uk, where he can express his love for 90’s Indie Rock, Hip-Hop and Record Collecting on air, he is also a great fan of the word ‘holller’. Holler is a great word.
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