Damage Inc.


It has been claimed that the Dillinger Escape Plan are kingpins of M.I.T.-inspired science rock. The band is the ultimate combination of skills in arithmetic calculation, progressive composition, and fantastically technical heavy metal. If you don’t get it, goes the argument, your brain is not of the cloth of Ph.D. material the band’s listeners are required to be cut from. A fine and entertaining story it is but the horse doesn’t trot well when the brags are dismounted.

On video, of which there is plenty, the Dillinger Escape Plan resemble nothing if not a squad of men doing calisthenics during basic training. The singer flexes and shakes his muscle at the audience like he’s captain of the wrestling team at the Danzig-Rollins Magnet School for Physical Fitness. This means, naturally, that he loses something on record. And it’s obvious on the new Miss Machine that Dillinger don’t even need a singer, really, for whatever it is they’re performing. The last 10 or so minutes of the CD veer between bursts of riff noise more smoothly recorded than expected and washes of music to watch soft porn by, indicating the charm of being proudly abrasive and busy is wearing off.

Actually, the most technical thing about the Dillinger Escape Plan isn’t the music but the fine-print hostility, obviously not theirs, in lawyer-ese that accompanies my promo copy of Miss Machine: “Any attempt to copy this product may result in damage to your audio or computer . . . [the record company is] not liable for any damage that results.”

Twenty-five years ago, putting nasty software on a disk for the purpose of screwing up a computer the contents might be copied to was illegal. A Cleveland man was the first to try it on a mass scale; he was subsequently brought up on a variety of charges in England. During the course of the trial he wore a cardboard box on his head, perhaps to convince the court he was non compos mentis. The courts of England declared the man a “public disgrace” and ejected him from the country. In Italy, where consumers had also received his disks, he was tried and sentenced in absentia to two years in jail.

Adopting the ways of malicious programmers two decades and change later, no matter how a lawyer or an intellectual-property geek in the employ of a record company justifies it, is not laudable or excusable. Cynically, one might expect it as an odious cost of doing business with famous morons, like the Beastie Boys who’ve also been caught at it. However, it’s utterly mystifying when used with artists as marginal as the Dillinger Escape Plan, like affixing a combination lock and a stick of dynamite to a bag of dirt for the purpose of ensuring that anyone stealing it has his limbs blown off.

The Dillinger Escape Plan play the Knitting Factory August 16 and 17.