La Dispute – Rooms Of The House

by Jack Reid

If you’d like to understand what La Dispute do, take account of the fact that on their website they present a catalogue of all the songs they’ve released. If you click on those songs, you’ll get the full lyrics. This will give you a hint of something that will become more clear as you listen to more and more from these guys; this is basically spoken word poetry. These albums are better understood as sheaves of poetry, spotted with angsty tearmarks, and bound together loosely with an A level art piece about pain as the cover. I’m being facetious but you get the point, La Dispute put the story and the emotion first and foremost.

With all of the above in mind, let’s consider Rooms Of The House as a collection of stories and poetic performances, augmented by the music behind them. Aaron’s voice, always torn at the edges from a painful roaring, is a little more varied in its cadence on this release. Aaron never throws in that much melody in his vocal lines but at the start of For Mayor In Splitsville you almost expect him to. That quickly gives way as the story unfolds, a bitter examination of breakups through the conceit of Splitsville, where everybody goes when it’s all over. It’s a strong tale, with a couple of those wonderfully potent and acrid lines that we’re used to from La Dispute:

Why are those old worn out jokes on married life told at toasts at receptions still? How does it never occur how often couples get burned and end uncertain in Splitsville?

In 35 we hear an account of a fatal bridge collapse unfolding on the television screen. The lines are confused fragments of seatbelts and water. It’s a dark tale and as we approach the close of the tale, things get clearer and clearer in an unrelenting and pretty harrowing depiction of a disaster. It’s a calm before the storm, before Stay Happy There. This track’s increased tempo and bounding rhythm pushes Aaron’s rage forwards at full tilt. The story is one of a stifling cohabitation in a midwest home, where resentments bubble up in long lists. As the closing barks pile up we realise that this song is pulling all the threads of the album together, the bridge collapse, the woman on the ledge, the burning coffee. Each vignette is flying at us all at once.

I could go on to pull at the threads of these interweaving stories but I will never bring them to life as vividly as La Dispute will. This spoken word poetry/post-hardcore is an acquired taste that for me is totally worth working at. If you listen for the lyrics here you are, and hey if you filled your MySpace page with hate when your favourite hardcore band went soft back in 2007, trust that these guys never will. Seriously though, La Dispute are going from strength to strength and they are producing some of the best stories in music right now.