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Spoken words, conceptual lyrics, blues influences, a wide range of instruments and one of the most spirited vocalists make experimental band La Dispute one of the most original bands currently making it in the underground rock community. The sound of La Dispute is very hard to explain; tempo changes and easy to hear but harder to understand lyrics mix with singer Jordan’s unpredictable vocals to bring something completely new to the local rock scene. Lyrics often pulled from old stories and poems and long buildups lead to intense outbursts in the longer tracks.
Their new CD “Wildlife” is the band’s sophomore release, following the 2008 release of “Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair,” which received highly favorable reviews. The premise of “Wildlife” is different than that of their last full length; this CD is marketed as being a group of separate short stories from one author, reflecting back on his life. Though La Dispute is a concept band, Jordan’s lyrics are still highly personal, and highly moving to those who take them to heart. With the way the lyrics are in La Dispute, there is little middle ground: either you like the band, or you don’t. With “Wildlife,” La Dispute announces who they are, and that they will not be changing their sound or lyrical content. “Wildlife” is even darker than “Somewhere At The Bottom…,” with topics ranging from gang violence to schizophrenia to cancer, but this is what La Dispute is best at.
The first song, “A Departure,” starts with a minute introduction before the listener is introduced to a man explaining why he wrote the following stories. Jordon’s vocals are still the same, with uncontrolled cracking and strain. The instrumentation is intense, but held back, waiting for the correct moment. The second song, “Harder Harmonies,” was the first single released from the CD, and is faster than the first. Guitarists Chad and Kevin make their instruments scream out at exactly the right times, and the song ends with Jordan chanting out “Nothing seems to work, nothing seems to fit.” Track 7, “The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit,” is about the rush before a connection and remorse. The song goes back and forth between the softer spoken words of Jordon and a harsher chorus,.
Track 9, “King Park,” gets into the territory that “La Dispute” really accelerates at: lengthy songs with a back story that allows Jordan to emphasize the important parts. The story is easy to follow, starting out with a quick recap of a gang related shooting, before going into an almost ghost perspective. The story then goes back into the stories behind those who did the shooting, then forward to the events after the shooting. The end the story follows the shooter directly after the crime. The song ends with Jordan screaming out, reenacting what the shooter said. The 7 minute track is more than enough to cause goose bumps, and is the masterpiece of the CD.
The next two songs follow 9 closely, with defined stories and a lot of angst. 10, “Edward Benz, 27 Times,” is the story of a schizophrenic who, “with his wires so tangled his father was a stranger”, attacked his own father, and the struggle of someone else trying to understand it. It’s another long emotional track ending at 6 minutes in the same intense way as the previous. “I See Everything,” the next song, falls into a diary account of a parent dealing with a child who is a cancer patient. The story starts out hopefully, with Jordan calling out dates every so often, breaking the story intro entries. The main character from the beginning seems to be trying to use the story and how the child deals with his illness as inspiration, but he eventually fails.
“Wildlife” is a move away from “Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River between Vega And Altair.” As the band perhaps tried to grow up a little, certain words seem to have disappeared from the bands vocabulary. The structure of the CD seems different from that of the first, but through the overall main character the band ties it together. With so many different stories, a lot of influence seems to come from the band’s “Hear Hear” EPs, a collection of spoken word stories. The songs on the beginning of the CD are shorter, and the lyrics are harder to decipher, making the CD hard to get into at first. The songs in the middle and the end of the disc are incredible, with the right ratio of spoken word to strained vocals. Overall, the CD cannot match the way “Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River” comes together as a CD, but some of the best material the band has produced in on “Wildlife”.