Although their first two albums have been well received in punk circles, La Dispute have until now remained very much under the radar. With the release of album number three, ‘Rooms of the House’, that may be about to change.
A concept album detailing the impending break-up of a couple, this is, admittedly, not going to appeal to everyone’s taste. Both musically and lyrically it’s heavy going. Opener Hudsonville MI 1956 sets the template – a brazenly abrasive number that has the influence of post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In plastered all over it.
It’s followed by the equally visceral Reactions After Falling Through The Ice – another number that features a barrage of angular, off-kilter riffing. Over the abrasive riffing, frontman Jordan Dreyer aggressively spits out his lyrics with a startling degree of raw emotion. It all combines for a rather intense but highly pleasing listen.
There’s more to the album than sheer brute power though with a handful of numbers showing an eclectic approach. Woman (in mirror) and Woman (reading) are stripped down, sparse and reflective with both owing more to Brand New than to any hardcore influence. Objects in Space is an even bigger departure; a haunting spoken word number. Elsewhere, For Mayor In Splitsville shows a further level of versatility. The closest thing to a ‘single’ on the album, this song could be best described as a very abrasive form of pop punk.
The softer moments offer a nice balance to the record and allow for respite amidst the more traditional hardcore numbers. Lyrically though, there is no respite. From start to finish, this is dark, emotional stuff. Dryder assumes the voice of the estranged couple, filling the album with vivid images of despair, heartbreak and wistful regret. It’s a tough listen at times but the narrative-driven lyrics make for a refreshing departure from your normal ‘woe is me’ punk/hardcore lyrics.
A minor post-hardcore classic this album is an essential listen for fans of the genre. And while it’s unlikely to be troubling FM radio any time soon it’s good enough to cross over and attract a fan base beyond the punk circles their first two albums enticed.