The Dismemberment Plan: Gyroscope
hat was supposed to be the most splendid Christmas Break of my life—an invigorating romp through the Peruvian Andes with my ravishing new girlfriend and her exceedingly wealthy family—quickly became the source of my young life's greatest struggle. As it turned out, somewhere along the way I drank some impure water that infected me with a tapeworm. I'll refrain from elaborating upon the messy details, but the earliest parts of the semester that followed were—and I'm being careful not to exaggerate here—unpleasant.
Like many of you, when I find myself in times of trouble I turn to music, and the song I will forever associate with my tapeworm fiasco is The Dismemberment Plan's "Gyroscope." The Plan were jacks of many trades, but "Gyroscope" is where they swung for pop perfection's fences. On Emergency & I, the song precedes "The City," the album's emotional centerpiece. During my winter from hell, it was one of my last refuges from a world where a demonic creature had taken up residence in the heart of my GI tract. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I visited the Plan's website and read that they were breaking up.
I did not take the news well, but there was a silver lining: The Plan were still on tour. I had one final shot to see them, at St. Alfred's University in New York. (This was before they extended their farewell tour thirty-five times. I ended up seeing them again that summer in Pittsburgh.) So on a local message board, I begged anyone who would listen for a ride, and ironically, it was former Stylus staffer Ed Howard who came to my rescue. After a two-hour drive in which we nearly died due to a poorly timed left lane pass attempt and a tiresome wait amongst strangers in the St. Alfred's community center, the show began.
It was one of the greatest live music experiences I've ever had, and the fact that the tapeworm was consuming my dinner, along with the majority of all my other meals, completely slipped my mind for a few glorious hours. There were many highlights, but the specific moment I will always remember best—the moment I was anticipating most—came when lead singer Travis Morrison delivered the song’s climactic final lines. On record, it occurs 2:09 in, when “Gyroscope” crescendos and Travis belts out, “Happiness is such hard work and it gets harder every day / And it can kill you, but no one wants to be that tacky about it.” Travis, whose voice continually strikes first-time listeners as being a little odd, is at his most clear-throated here. For a band that made its name based largely on the strength of its instrumentation, “Gyroscope” leaves Travis to carry the track to its conclusion all on his own, and he does so superbly.
I don’t know that I could ever single out one Dismemberment Plan song as being my favorite, but “Gyroscope” is the one I return to most often, primarily for that ending. And as I took trip after trip to the vet to obtain more pills so that I might rid myself of that awful parasitic menace, I’m not sure that “happiness” was such hard work as much as misery was so damn easy. But it speaks to the power of “Gyroscope” that I was still able to digest its message at the time, even though I was unable to digest my own food.
By: Ross McGowan
Published on: 2005-07-27