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Today, for the first time since it dropped a compilation of remixes in 2003, The Dismemberment Plan released a new album. The band’s label in Japan, Bad News Records, recorded the Plan’s Feb. 9 show at Shibuya O-West in Tokyo, and you can buy Live in Japan 2011 in the iTunes store. It’s a strong, varied show; a clean recording; and the material, from the band’s ’90s-to-early-2000s run, has aged well. So has the band’s controlled chaos.
Live in Japan 2011 might be significant for another reason. I’m fairly sure it marks the first official preservation of a longstanding Dismemberment Plan live ritual: embedding a pop cover in the song “OK Jokes Over.” The cover, in this case, is Beyoncé‘s “Single Ladies.”
As I wrote following the Plan’s January shows in D.C., one thing that makes the group special is its omnivorousness: In its hands, indie rock is a filter for anything and everything. Hence the band’s molasses-slow cover of “Crush” by Jennifer Paige from a 2001 EP. And hence the “OK Jokes Over” tradition.
A lot of recent considerations of The Dismemberment Plan have hinged on very personal explanations, which, clearly, is one reason the band still matters; people take them personally. Influence-wise, I don’t think you hear much of The Dismemberment Plan in contemporary indie rock, but judging from the band’s recent shows, their songs sit pretty nicely with the modern pop charts.
The band has played 15 shows this year, with presumably as many versions of “OK Jokes Over.” I always assumed the band played a different pop cover every show, but after consulting YouTube clips, folks who went to shows in other cities, and the very handy website setlists.fm, that’s evidently not the case. Still! It’s a pretty nicely curated selection of 21st century pop music. I’m still not sure what the band played at its first two Japan shows, nor is the band’s publicist. He passed on my query to D-Plan bassist Eric Axelson, who couldn’t vouch for his own memory, but suggested I listen to audio recordings made by fans throughout the tour (there are a bunch here). Anyway, here’s what I got, with video clips where available. The Das Racist cover from the Boston show is fucking epic:
- Jan. 15, Galaxy Hut, Arlington: Robyn, “Fembot”
- Jan. 21, Black Cat: Robyn, “Fembot”
- Jan. 22, 9:30 Club: Far East Movement, “Like a G6”
- Jan. 23, 9:30 Club: Beyoncé, “Single Ladies”
- Jan. 27, Starlight Ballroom, Philadelphia: Willow Smith, “Whip My Hair”
- Jan. 28, Paradise Rock Club, Boston: Das Racist, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”
- Jan. 29, Webster Hall, New York City: Willow Smith: “Whip My Hair”
- Jan. 30, Webster Hall, New York City: Far East Movement, “Like a G6″/The National, “Afraid of Everyone”
- Feb. 7, Taku-Taku, Kyoto, Japan: ??
- Feb. 8, Apollo Theater, Nagoya, Japan: ??
- Feb. 9, Shibuya O-West, Tokyo, Japan: Beyoncé, “Single Ladies”
- Feb. 13, Shibuya O-West, Tokyo, Japan: Kanye West, “Gold Digger”
- Feb. 19, Metro, Chicago: Beyoncé, “Single Ladies”
- Feb. 20, Metro, Chicago: Willow Smith, “Whip My Hair”
- March 12, The Showbox SoDo, Seattle: Robyn, “None of Dem”
The Plan still has more shows this summer—-at The Roots Picnic in Philly and the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The festival format means shorter sets, so I wouldn’t be surprised if “OK Jokes Over,” deep cut that it is, gets omitted.
If not, there’s not much to love on Billboard’s singles chart these days. The Plan should probably just go with Lady Gaga‘s “Judas.”