La Dispute’s latest record, Rooms of the House, was dubbed ‘unclassifiable’ by Vice Magazine, the first publication to allow the public to listen to the band’s third studio album. That’s not entirely accurate, though – or if it is, then everything La Dispute have ever released should be tarred with the same brush; it’s a progression, it’s slightly calmer if not in content then in delivery, but it’s unmistakably the Grand Rapids boys doing what they’ve always done, and doing it very bloody well.
Certainly they don’t fit into a particular conventional genre. Heck, maybe they don’t fit into a genre at all. But genre and classification aren’t necessarily the same thing. Let’s classify Rooms of the House for a while, shall we? It’s raw, it manages to be melodic, it’s emotive, it’s mature… and when it comes to attitude/intent, it’s the most punk rock record 2014 has seen so far.
Opening with HUDSONVILLE MI 1956, it’s recognisably La Dispute from the start - Dreyer murmurs to his audience about bridges collapsing and drivers breaking through the glass – as with their previous releases, the emotional crescendo creeps up on you rather than slamming it all out in the first few bars. It’s much more effective in creating the atmosphere, a wonderful contrast between hope and despair, that follows through the entire album. By the time the chorus does hit, we’re ready for it; it’s these musical subtleties that show, within the first half of the first track, that this album’s gonna kill it.
The third track, Woman (in Mirror) is a definite standout. Adding a timeless element to Rooms of the House, the song serves to add a calm, loving element to an album so otherwise filled with disaster and showcasing a bleaker outlook. (in Mirror) could not by any means be considered a happy song, or even a positive one, but it does break up the rest of the album with its soothing guitar in the background. With lyrics like,
There’s a dinner Thanksgiving/Dress up nice make a dish to bring/
There are moments here only yours and mine/Tiny dots on an endless timeline..
it becomes apparent that, for La Dispute at least, the “motions of ordinary love” are anything but ordinary at all. Which is pretty nice, when you think about it.
It’s not hard to recognise a La Dispute track as soon as you hear it. There’s the contrast between the quieter lyrics – you know, the ones that could almost be heard at a slam poetry session in a Williamsburg coffee shop, but thank god they aren’t because then their brilliance would be lost to the world – and the heavier, melodic choruses Jordan Dreyer drills into our collective subconscious; there’s the guitar riffs that almost sound gentle in a brilliant juxtaposition against often haunting lyrics of heartbreak and death; there’s the subtle nuances that make it just removed enough from your typical post-hardcore release to ensure La Dispute’s spot in musical history.
Rooms of the House is brilliant. La Dispute is music for emotional people, and this is a super emotional album. It’s hard to say whether the themes are more ‘grown up’, which is a sure fire way to give a band credit when their latest album is kinda sorta saying the same thing they’ve always been saying, just in a slightly different way… But then, if we wanted something new we probably wouldn’t be listening to La Dispute at all. They’ve pioneered their own genre, for christ’s sake, let’s give ‘em some credit! Standout songs would be Woman (in Mirror) and Woman (reading), but the entire thing should be gobbled up at once for full flavour impact.
& remember, play the La Dispute drinking game the second or third time you listen to Rooms of the House all the way through;
- Do a shot every time an ordinary household act becomes a metaphor for loneliness or despair,
- Do a shot every time marriage or parenthood is mentioned,
- Do a shot every time human mundanity (ie. checking an iPhone) is presented next to human disaster (ie. a car crash),
- Do a shot every time death, survival or ‘getting out alive’ is mentioned,
- Do a shot for every time gang-style vocals are done by Dreyer alone,
- Do a shot every time houses or homes are mentioned.
Only kidding. Unless you try it and get wasted, that is.