La Dispute - Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair (Cover Artwork)

La Dispute

Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair (2008)

No Sleep

I haven't done this for a while: listen to a compilation and actually like a band on it. I either already know the band and the label (Fat Wreck, Hellcat, etc.), or the music is so generic it's hard to know A from B (see: the Punx United compilation). So after downloading the recent Revolution Records online freebie, and skipping through the whinier parts, my ears came to rest on La Dispute.

You had my hand in your hand; my lips in your teeth; you had my heart on your sleeve...
It's that part: "You had my heart on your sleeve." I don't really care what this song is supposed to be about; in many ways, it's immaterial what the writer intended; it only matters how it is interpreted. The song could be about a girl, but it could just as easily be about music; for what else is the music that you listen to apart from your heart on their sleeve?

There's an intensity on their album, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair that can match Sick of it All, or the first Against Me! album. It drags you in; it involves; it makes you want to shout/scream along. The vocal performance, the poetic verbal diarrhea on display Jordan Dreyer feels like a stream of intense, desperate consciousness.

He's backed by a band that complement everything, bursting forth and shutting up with massive riffs, the occasional picked guitar and the tease of horns. The music is much like Guns N' Roses being played by a hardcore band with the Darkest Hour lyricist on the verge of crumbling.

The words follow the concept of love and the loss of it, and all its trials. They can be read as a ‘human relationship' album á la a ‘post'-hardcore Dear You (Jawbreaker), but there are parts of the lyrics that would suggest more -- that would suggest it's also about the struggle with life, society, music, heroes and villains.

This is a deep album, a strong album and a sound I would normally fob off but I just can't. The lyrics offer much depth and just enough ambiguity not just to be about boys and girls (or boys and boys or girls and girls) and the music puts in a perfect frame.

This is not about haircuts, nor how tight your jeans our. This album has the power to reach beyond fashion, beyond petty elitism and bad writing. It's one of the few times that I don't care how experimental or intelligent this band is, because they're just so good at what they do, it's just lucky that they are.