Indie pop marries the proto-punk star on Dancer’s ‘As Well’

"Come, all ye unfaithful," and let Dancer’s latest EP deliver a shot of Brit-punk irreverence right to your main vein.
Rohit Bhattacharya
Rohit Bhattacharya
Writer, erstwhile musician, and intermittent content creator. Rohit is based in New Delhi, India. Contact: rohitbhattacharya@gmail.com or Instagram: robohop10

“Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi!” the iconic British chant is the first thing that comes to mind when listening to Glasgow-based quartet Dancer’s 2023 album As Well. After all, their sound is practically dripping with a geographically-appropriate stiff upper lip. The four fiery faces of Dancer are Gemma Fleet (vocals), Chris Taylor (guitar/keytar), Andrew Doig (bass), and Gavin Murdoch (drums)—a veritable sonic behemoth comprising members of Current Affairs, Nightshift, and Order of the Toad. These sonic permutations tend to appear when musicians need a break from their regular bands. And it’s here that they combine elements of indie-pop with a punk sensibility. In doing so, Dancer switches vibes seamlessly from cutesy little pre-pubescents playing ‘Bop It’ to rowdy football hooligans edging on the offense. 

Dancer is as English as they come, with Fleet utilizing more of a spoken-word delivery rather than conventional singing to drive home an annoyingly alluring jadedness we all wish we could resist. The album opens with “Cordon Bleu,” where the minor chord melancholy of the guitar and vocals offset the uptempo drumming to make for an interesting mix of Brit-pop with a punk dynamism. The absence of accessible lyrics online makes it challenging to determine if the song’s culinary references are metaphorical. Still, the fact that Fleet ends the song by slowly drawing “Sauté, entrée” could indicate there isn’t actually any greater meaning behind the lyrics. Maybe she’s simply enamored by the gastronomical marvels of Marco Pierre White.

Continuing in the groove established by the opening song is “Chill Pill,” the second track on the album and a certified foot-stomper to boot. Picture yourself in a dingy basement stuffed to the edge with bodies, off your face, and losing it, to the twin attack of the funky intro and the darker, more reverb-laden chorus. Think Kraftwerk-meets-every-shoegaze band ever.

The next song, “Love,” has its happy-go-lucky instrumentation interestingly perverted by the menacing vocal delivery of Fleet. Early Alanis Morrisette fans might want to give this song a go. As you listen, Dancer’s genre becomes increasingly elusive to pin down. There are familiar influences and sounds, yet articulating it feels like chasing the dragon—endlessly close yet impossible to grasp. The members may have come together intending to let their hair down by crafting some fun, irreverent music, but their creations undeniably keep the listener engaged and on their toes. For a band that seems to have formed as a pet passion project, Dancer is, for the most part, uniquely cohesive, and that’s what they bring to the table—solid music without the solemnity that plagues full-time musicians who spend too much time together.

Riding high on the coattails of every Tine Weymouth bassline comes “Pulp Thriller,” an absolute banger that sees Taylor dishing out heavy guitar chonkiness while Doig comes in with an aggressive, trebly bass riff that’s equal parts Talking Heads and Hotwax. The initial anticipation builds before giving way to a release of adrenaline and whatever other uppers are coursing through your system. By this time, you’ve suddenly realized that Fleet starts each song by announcing its name. A curious choice but one that makes sense in the Brit-pop blaseness of it all. Just the way she says it—with the impassivity of someone who wholly and completely does not care—makes the listener ready for the sweet surrender of the incoming sonic blast. 

Some save the best for last, while others do the opposite. Case in point —”And Jesus Wept,” the final track on the album, starts on the three with a fuzzy waltz that prepares the listener for a minstrel’s tale. Like a bard on cue, Fleet narrates, “High up on a hill stands Christ / Christ the Redeemer, / he’s a real people pleaser.” Kicking off a song with a stab at the believers is a bold choice, but hey, someone has got to do it. In fact, it’s almost a rite of passage for punk bands from that part of the world to sneer at religion; Johnny Rotten once stated, “I ain’t seen no evidence of God. Nowhere. Have you? God is probably Barry Manilow.” The song continues in its cheeky, impish terrain before a distorted bridge leads into a fade-out hellscape of dissonance and random prayer snippets. The track ends with Fleet saying “Amen,” and one has to wonder why a track that started so strong ends in unintelligible shambles. Considering the other songs on the album, the second half of this final track is a rather tragic denouement. Perhaps they were aiming to project unbridled chaos, but by the song’s conclusion, all that comes across is a muddled boomy mess that should have been aborted.

With a playtime of approximately 16 minutes, As Well is a decent collection of hardcore songs short enough to require multiple replays. There’s an innate sense of groove underlining the entire album, which means the music can serve multiple purposes—from practicing pirouettes to silently raging against the machine. And if the album doesn’t tickle your pickle, you can simply try imitating that delicious Glasgow inflection.

Read More