La Dispute

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair (2008) , 7/10
Wildlife (2011), 6/10
Rooms of the House (2014), 6/10

Michigan's post-hardcore outfit La Dispute debuted with an eight-song EP, Vancouver (2006), that stood out for musicianship (notably bassist Adam Vass and guitarist Chad Sterenberg in A Word Of Welcome And Warning and The Surgeon and the Scientist) and general frenzy (To Withstand the Force of Storms ), although half of the songs were not particularly impressive. Jordan Dreyer's tormented monologues trasformed into something much more powerful on Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair (No Sleep, 2008). The highlight of the album (and of their entire career) is the twelve-minute The Last Lost Continent, a masterpiece of recitation worthy of BBC's theatrical productions, a case of vehement spoken-word that makes "screamo" sound harmless. After eight-minutes, after leaving the stage to the pulsation of a barely strummed bass guitar, Dreyer and his cohorts flirt with Brech-Weill's cabaret, and end with a choral proclamation over war drums. Such impeccable performance had not been heard since the heydays of Jello Biafra and Patti Smith. The album actually begins in a minor tone, with the brief Such Small Hands and the confused Said the King to the River. Damaged Goods raises the standard with a show that is as much of the vocalist as of the roaring stuttering guitar. The backing takes more and more of a protagonist role with the ghost-blues guitar of Andria and the prog-rock interaction of Last Blues for Bloody Knuckles. In Sad Prayers for Guilty Bodies the guitar turns almost Van Halen and the vocals turn almost death-metal, but the real emotional shot is the irregular blues guitar motifs of the break. Music and vocals charge together in synch, reaching a manic level of tension, in Bury Your Flame. The range is not trivial at all, from the oi-grade emphasis of The Castle Builders to the parodistic pop lament contained in Nobody Not Even the Rain. This album single-handedly started a screamo revival.

Wildlife (2011) is a more professional work but not necessarily a more successful one. Unfortunately, the new format tends to bring the lyrics to the fore. The style, not the words, are Dreyer's forte. As a poet, he has millions of competitors. The seven-minute King Park is meant to be the highlight, but it mostly minimizes the instrumental contribution to make sure that we get to hear the story.

Rooms of the House (2014) is another diligent, but not groundbreaking, album. Some songs show a tendency to dilute their screamo frenzy into conventional grunge-pop and bar-band's roots-rock (For Mayor In Splitsville).

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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