La Dispute - Rooms of the House

La Dispute and their imagination run wild.

Additional Info

8.3

ALBUM: Rooms of the House

ARTIST: La Dispute

2014

Metal

Over the years, La Dispute have slowly been diverging from their initial bare-bones romanticism. An immediately grating and overly spiteful debut marked their off-kilter introduction into metalcore, sporting oddly spoken-word/poetic lyricism amidst all the yelling and growling. Maybe Jordan Dreyer was over-correcting for never having been a vocalist before, but Vancouver was clearly a bit too much of everything.

Instead of continuing down this worn path, he honed his poignant writing and was able to fixate on his all-too-personal problems in a completely different manner - by making it the focal point of a grandiose Shakespearean tragedy, complete with more "darlings" than The Wolf of Wall Street had "fucks." It was a wholehearted embrace of the melodic, and more engaging, aspects of their post-hardcore influence, and allowed them to essentially travel both halves of the fork in the road through a series of organic and airy spoken-word/instrumental-driven EPs, coupled with the fantastic split-release with Touché Amore. And 2011's brilliant Wildlife.

With Wildlife, and La Dispute's adherence to his narrative - often an inner monologue of sorts - Dreyer was able to continue separating himself from his subject, while still embracing the almost omniscient empathy he's been writing with since Somewhere at the Bottom... However, as cohesive as Wildlife was (arguably La Dispute's greatest release), the blistering secrets, hopes, doubts and fears that filled Searching for a Pulse/The Worth of the World, Never Come Undone, and the cult-classic sophomore release, were on the verge of being replaced with something frighteningly bland.

While Rooms of the House may not be that final step off an ever-rising precipice, it's another edge closer. Where Wildlife was predicated on pondering life and death, and growth and decay, in his hometown, through a series of first or second-hand accounts, Rooms of the House sees Dreyer returning to his creative roots in constructing a world from scratch - sans a bit of the magic that surrounded the folklore of ...Vega and Altair. Now, everything is all too real - but far too removed from emotion. With the latter album, Dreyer was creating a play and pulling from various myths and lore, and the emotional baggage was stark and visceral. As he moves away from that area of inspiration, he begins leaving behind the characteristics that made his delivery and writing so piercing.

A few songs on this records actually work better out of context, or, rather, in spite of it. When tracks like “First Reactions After Falling Through The Ice,” “For Mayor in Splitsville,” and “Stay Happy There” act as meandering fillers, the enthrallment of “HUDSONVILLE MI 1956,” or creativity of “Woman (in mirror)” act as more memorable highlights. Where Wildlife worked incredibly well as a whole, Dreyer seems to have held his cards too close to his chest this time around. In creating such a narrative from a meld of personal and fictional strife, he seems to have retained too much of it for himself, even as the rest of the band continued to evolve and embrace a more seamless blend of their past and present styles.

Some of the work on the singles is the most pop-rock to date, and it works to an extent. “Women (reading),” “Extraordinary Dinner Party,” and “Objects in Space” are some of Dreyer and the band’s most creative outings to date (almost reminiscent of mewithoutYou’s recent work), but there’s a lack of foundation throughout the entire album. There’s a detachment from the content, and Dreyer’s delivery, despite the few moments of a more refined approach, starts to become second to the lush soundtrack of his tales. The premise itself gets too swept away in it’s own characters, and you can’t help wonder if Dreyer should’ve risked more.

“Tiny dots on an endless timeline”

1. HUDSONVILLE MI 1956
A thunderous opening that details the fierce tornado that swept through this imagined canvas, dislocating and disarming the ant-like humans scurrying to protect what they love and control all their worry. “Stay calm,” repeats Dreyer, even as there are “bridges over rivers, there are moments of collapse, there are drivers with their feet on the glass - kick but you can’t get out.” Jordan Dreyer’s unique and ever-poignant style of storytelling, weaving fact with fiction, emotion with reserved detachment, is as strong as ever - even when the degrees of separation between him and his content continue to grow. The instrumentation is more focused than ever, purposefully building up to muted outbursts to match Dreyer’s own dramatic storytelling. All aspects of La Dispute are at play here, including the combination of spoken-word and unbridled aggression, melody and disconnect, that often help them create increasingly vivid paintings. 9.0
2. First Reactions After Falling Through the Ice
A short tale about tempting fate, Dreyer recounts the thoughts of a man wondering why all his “plans fall through.” The tale turns nihilistic in typical La Dispute fashion as the man starts to imagine his love getting “too drunk” at his wake before trying to “resuscitate” him. While not the most inspired or purposefully penned verse, the instrumentation picks up a tumbling tempo that keeps gaining speed, even in the lulls, and carries the song towards a powerful climax and an energetic outro. 7.0
3. Woman (in mirror)
The energy and commotion of the first two tracks is drained away in an instant as Dreyer finds comfort in a beautiful blend of his spoken-word work from the Here, Hear EPs and the woeful romanticism of his earlier albums. He breathes on about “all the motions of ordinary love,” from the “the languages you make out looks and names,” to how we all “grow and change.” The fluttering strings and the steady rhythm allow him to carry out his act, weaving beautiful idioms together such as: “tiny dots on an endless timeline.” It’s a brief lapse into the eye of the storm, before surging dramatically back into the midst of it all.9.0
4. SCENES FROM HIGHWAYS 1981-2009
Extending the feeling of timelessness and serenity filled infinity, this track builds up the backstory of the married couple lost in the storm on the opening song. Dreyer eloquently sketches the silhouette of a women “‘Born to Run,’ or maybe ‘Running on Empty’,” and the man who was able to help her live with the fact that she wants to go “all those places where the highways don’t reach,” where “time moves so slow...it’s frozen.” They both find a home and solace as one, concluding that “history’s a system of roads and there’s nowhere it doesn’t go.” It’s a glimpse into the torrid history of the women who thought she finally found comfort, and hope.8.5
5. For Mayor in Splitsville
A single that seemed a bit out of touch when it first premiered, this track has quickly grown into a favorite of mine on the record. Weaving the wreckage of the storm into the often equally disorienting nature of marriage, there’s a mismatched pop-rock sensibility that is easiest to ignore when the song is heard in context. In context, the disdain for complacency, and repetition, and “old worn-out jokes, on married life told at toasts” are all placeholders for a more visceral need to be content, even though nowadays “there’s always something else.”7.5
6. 35
A front-row view of the colossal havoc wreaked by the tornado. Dreyer utilizes an all-knowing narrative to describe the "metal twisting" and how the "wires snap," only to reveal himself as one of the protagonists, alone, on the floor, witnessing the wreckage on TV. The swaying instrumentation, full with deep and thudding drums like funeral march, provides perfect lulls for the unraveling tale to build suspense.8.0
7. Stay Happy There
The other single, “Stay Happy There” continues to fill the gaps in the decade-spanning narrative and adds a dramatic flair to the storm touching “down north in Hudsonville.” The instrumentation is as strong as ever, spinning and winding with every overly enunciated syllable in Dreyer’s monologue. Perhaps most reminiscent of older material, this track sees his lows on the “please” and “sit downs,” his whispered storytelling about how maybe they were never “were never cut out for the Midwest life,” and desperate attempts at grasping at “only every good day” that builds into a thunderous climax - “everything is happening at once."8.0
8. THE CHILD WE LOST 1963
Based off of an autobiographical short story written by drummer, Brad Vander Lugt, Dreyer’s cousin’s, father, this track recounts a child’s perception of a stillbirth. To a child who “only knew that mother wept,” and not what “stillbirth” could’ve meant, movements came and went in shadows - in tiptoes. The track is overtly direct, with a childlike innocence, as the instrumentation dips into a darker and more brooding grunge. Dreyer’s shrill, singsong, “you were visions/a vagueness, a faded image/you were visions” is an inspired highlight, even if the entire song isn’t as striking.8.5
9. Woman (reading)
A brilliantly subdued track that also works as the thesis for the album and displays how “the memories echo” in the Rooms of the House. Dreyer seems entirely at ease weaving together the most poetic lines about, well, poetry and art and muses themselves, in a manner in which only he can. The first half of the song, in its blissful nostalgia and hopeless romanticism, is anchored by the inevitable climax - but the juxtaposition is deserved, even if the writing wavers as Dreyer shouts “sometimes I think of all the people who lived here before us” in an all-too-familiar fashion.9.0
10. Extraordinary Dinner Party
Maybe it’s the playful “morning after snowstorm,” or the steady, cheerful tune the rest of the band keeps running in place, but I like this song - despite Dreyer seemingly singing another mundane ode about other faceless relationships. The repetitive stories start to get worn out and become rather disengaging when there’s nothing particularly interesting going on.7.5
11. Objects in Space
The airy strumming and crisp patter of the snare let Dreyer echo on as the consciousness of the Rooms of the House, taking into account all the “keepsakes, pictures letters, ordinary objects,all collected there,” laying spread out as “a memorial.” There’s a sense of longing for closure, a resolution to past, present and future, in the rhythmic pleads from Dreyer - but there’s also a sense of understanding that these are all just “Objects in Space,” “sideways, in a grid on the floor, there, unmoored, out of context.” A great, refreshing track, but also a fitting end to this record, in that it seems to represent a half-finished thought. “Moving things around” and putting “them in boxes” shouldn’t be enough.9.0
Narsimha Chintaluri is a creative writer currently satiating his need to write by venting about music, tv and film on any given platform.



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