La Dispute

Wildlife

Written by: DR on 10/10/2011 20:42:32

While the 'wave' community of (post-)hardcore as a whole has exploded in the past few years, one band more than any other has been at the forefront of that: La Dispute. As this site is about 'Music from a fan's point of view', I'm going to start this review by declaring that I am a La Dispute fan, and that the possibility of a new album has been getting me excited for a while now. Given how this band has exploded in the past year or so, I'm definitely not alone.

Whether it's Jordan Dreyer's anguished vocal-style and how he constructs lyrics with all the care of a poet, the throwback to hardcore/skramz without actually pigeon-holing themselves as either type of band, or how they tackled the concept of losing love on "Somewhere..." in a way which captured the thought-process of love-lorn teenagers-to-twentysomethings immaculately, there's something about this band that we connect with.

However, La Dispute have done a lot of growing up since 2008's "Somewhere At The Bottom of The River Between Vega And Altair". So much so that it's almost hard to believe it's even the same band. Avid fans will know of their "Here, Hear" EPs, and "Wildlife" is the next logical progression of their third instalment of them. Now Jordan Dreyer screams not of lovers or of losing love - 'darling' isn't mentioned once! - but through a character, and of the anger and despair that comes from watching your hometown decay.

Now, the musicians rely less on the intricate, reverb-y guitar-work of old, and more on providing the base for Dreyer's story-telling, even if at times that means simpler, slower chord-progressions and less leaning on blistering hardcore-inspired musicianship. This is the biggest change in their sound and it will take some adjusting to the simplicity of a song like "Edit Your Hometown", for example. Where "Somewhere..." felt disjointed - the musicianship and the vocals rarely felt connected or in sync with one-another - this album was wrote as a collective, and the overall output is more focused and better for it.

Dreyer will earn most of the plaudits for his performance on "Wildlife", and you won't find me disputing this as he basically wrote a fucking novel, but it does mean the musicians are likely to go unsung. While undoubtedly less spectacular, Dreyer's incredible performance benefits incredibly from the platform the guys behind him build. Take the best song on the album: "King Park". Dreyer, or rather his character, tells the story of a gang-shooting. The voice of the song searches for a reason for this but fails to find one. Instead, he imagines that the gunman, now holed up in a hotel room and surrounded by police in a final showdown, didn't actually mean to kill an innocent bystander - it was an accident, a bullet meant for someone else. The song builds gradually, sucking you into this beautifully crafted story, edging towards the climax; as the story reaches the hotel, it's the pulsing guitar-line that tenses the listener, as the instrumentation swells and swells until it reaches the moment of:

“Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?

Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?

Can I ever be forgiven cuz I killed that kid?

It was an accident I swear it wasn’t meant for him!

And if I turn it on me, if I even it out, can I still get in or will they send me to hell?

Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?”

I left the hotel behind, don’t want to know how it ends.

What makes that moment hit you like a tank is the culmination of how brilliantly the band gradually get more and more intense to draw you in, before releasing you in front of Dreyer's desperate delivery of a verse as emotionally piercing as that.

Dreyer is now less a lyricist and more a story-teller, in what is a staggeringly exhausting (in the best way) execution of a concept. Through the voice of a hypothetical writer, we're presented with stories of loss and struggle, and, through the introduction, "a Departure", and intermissions, "a Letter", "a Poem" and "a Broken Jar", we're told of the writer's own loss and personal struggle. Morever, as a vocalist Dreyer has matured beyond his anxious talk-quickly-then-scream style. In "Safer in the Forest/Love Song for Poor Michigan" he reads in a subdued tone of someone who needs to escape his home city, and as the song progresses so, too, do the vocals to hint at mixed feelings of joy as he finally leaves the city behind, but also of regret having left his "desperate city" to deal with the problems without him, signing off with "Your desperate friend".

The horror of "King Park" is matched with the following track "Edward Benz, 27 Times", which tells the story of a schizophrenic son who stabs his father. The song concludes with "I carry your image. Your grandfather’s coffin. And Ed, if you hear me, I think of you often. That’s all I can offer. That’s all that I know how to give." a peak of "The Last Lost Continent"-esque proportions. "I See Everything" documents, through the eyes of his parents' journal, a child who is stricken with cancer. In that great loss of their child they found hope and comfort in God's love. With "all our bruised bodies and the whole heart shrinks" the writer, however, realises he has never had to deal with such loss, and wonders what he'll find when he inevitably has to go through it and comes out the other side. Concluding the album is (the ridiculously catchy) "You and I in Unison", as La Dispute end up back in the territory of dealing with the loss of love - but not in the same manner as the adolescent whining of "Somewhere...", because although the writer is pining after the only woman he ever loved but could never had, Dreyer sounds hopeful as he/the writer urges the listener/reader to find "someone or something" to help you through the fires and storms of life.

"Wildlife" could be that something. "Somewhere At The Bottom of The River Between Vega And Altair" is a record that I was once in love with, yet it has slowly come to mean less and less to me as I've got older, whereas "Wildlife" is the kind of album that will only mean more and more to me as I grow older. At an hour long, so layered, finely detailed and downright disturbing, it requires and deserves patience from the listener; it is a record of surprising maturity and immense artistic intent, so wildly ambitious and boldly executed that it's now impossible to tie La Dispute down to any label or pigeon-hole. "Wildlife" could be one of those albums so important that, years down the line, you still remember the feeling of when it first hit you. It could be a watershed moment not only for the band or for the scene, but for the lives of us listeners because experiences like this don't come along often, but when they do they leave a mark on us that lasts for as long as we do.

9

Download: a Departure; Safer in the Forest/Love Song for Poor Michigan; King Park; Edward Benz, 27 Times; I See Everything; a Broken Jar; You and I in Unison
For The Fans of: mewithoutYou, Touché Amoré, Defeater, As Cities Burn, Colour Revolt, Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me"
Listen: Bandcamp

Release Date 04.10.2011
No Sleep Records

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