ALBUM: Rooms of the House
ARTIST: La Dispute
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”