La Dispute - Wildlife (Cover Artwork)

La Dispute

Wildlife (2011)

No Sleep Records

You either love the hell out of this band or you don't get the hype. If you don't get the hype, don't bother reading this review. Just get to the shit talking.

Where do I begin. La Dispute is very important to me. I was introduced to their music through the singer of my current band over a year ago. I was immediately hooked. Their sound is reminiscent of mewithoutYou, Fugazi and At The Drive-In just to name a few. The combination of influences fit the band well and they seemed to be already so comfortable with their own sound in their first full length, Somewhere At The Bottom Of The River Between Vega And Altair. Repeated listens to that record revealed it to be a work of art and something to be returned to. It was a meaningful piece with shining lyrics and creative musicianship. I didn't think the band had it in them to top it.

I was wrong. So wrong.

Wildlife is a totally different La Dispute experience. It could frighten older fans of the band at first because it is considerably darker than their past work. The only thing I could compare anything on this record to that the band recorded prior is "Why It Scares Me" from the Touche Amore split. Be warned, this record is not for the faint of heart. If you could relate to anything that Jordan spoke of in their past works, this record will click with you. Lyrically anyway. Jordan's lyrics are designed in different forms of poetry and prose. His spoken word style delivery isn't totally original considering their influences, but he definitely has his own spin of things and his volume range is ridiculous.

Anyway, on to the record. "A Departure" opens the record flawlessly. Listen to the lyrics of this song and you will understand what the rest of the record is about essentially. "I know I never used to feel like this / I used to never think of death or hear voices / I felt that everything was perfectly in order / a normal life / I guess then came a departure." This song musically, to me, can only be compared to At the Drive-In. The drums are creative and smooth, and the guitars set the stage for the rest of the record as well. The band used a "no artificial reverb" rule during the recording of this record. They used only room acoustics to create the atmospheres.

"Harder Harmonies" immediately reminds me of the band's older material. The riffage is excellent and the guitars flow excellently with Jordan and the rhythm section. This song softly fades out in the middle and the guitars shine. Eventually the song fades out as Jordan hollers, "There's a melody in everything / I'm trying to find the harmony but nothing seems to work / Nothing seems to fit."

There are so many wonderful tracks on this record I'm going to have to limit myself to my personal standouts from here on in. "A Letter" is a very personal song for Jordan lyrically. It's easy to relate to his sense of loss and distaste for the world around him. "Everybody wants a reason for everything / It's always easier with something or someone to blame." The guitars in this song sound almost midwest-emo-influenced. Lyrically this is one of the standout tracks of the record. Flawless. "Do I feel embarrassed about it? / I think you know the answer to that / You'd probably feel a little embarrassed for me, wouldn't you?...Looking back maybe I never tried hard enough / And it is my fault / Maybe I never tried at all."

"The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit" is the only song on the record I could consider "fun." It is a love song about growing up and young sexuality. The instrumentals are subtly poppy but in a good way. The do cite Third Eye Blind as an influence and have been known to cover them. Jordan puts indescribable things into words like no one can. "No love, no life, no history / Just touch, just chemistry... It's a moment / Harmless, it's energy / It's like medicine / It's self-discovery."

The final two standout tracks are stories that Jordan tells very vividly and accurately with his lyrics. The first of the two is called "King Park." Musically this could be the most intense song on the record. The drums and the guitars stand out, and the intensity falls in and out until the very end. This song, lyrically, is almost uncomfortable to hear. But that was Jordan's intention. It is about a shooting that involved a young boy that was accidentally killed. The lyrics go on to tell how the shooter holds himself up in a hotel, threatening to end his life. The song ends with "Then they heard him speak / '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 cause I killed that kid? / It was an accident I swear it wasn't meant for him / Can I still get into heaven if I kill myself?' / I leave the hotel behind, don't want to know how it ends." I'll leave you with that. Listen to it for yourself, but like I've said, this record is not for the faint of heart.

The next is called "Edward Benz, 27 Times." It is about a man Jordan met whose son is schizophrenic. His son eventually quits taking his medication due to them making him sleep too often. The man comes home one night to his wife locked out of the house. The man unlocks the door, to find his son manic and totally unaware that it is his father and not a stranger breaking into the house. The man attacks his father with a knife. Leaving several scars on his arms. "Went into the hall / His son held a knife standing off in the shadows / Lunged forward and tackled him / Stabbing him over and over and breaking that window."

These two songs I mentioned because they sum up a similar themes. No suffering should be planned. There is no "need" for suffering. It is almost Jordan's personal atheistic message.

This band is amazingly talented group of dudes and I can't wait to catch these songs live. They played their final house show ever with my band a year ago and it was one of the greatest nights of my life. I will always remember La Dispute.