Whenever I describe La Dispute to people, I always describe them as “spoken word hardcore,” a label that has always seemed off to me. People today are far to obsessed with categorizing music by very specific genres, spending hours trying to come up with labels for their favorite bands that show off their broad musical knowledge (Post-punk shoegaze electrocore, anyone?) La Dispute, a five piece outfit from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been called a leading voice of a sort of Post-Hardcore revival, but their third studio album, Rooms of the House, progresses them further than that. Try all you like to place a label on it, but Rooms of the House is a completely genre-less album, and in today’s world where everyone is distracted by labels, it’s highly refreshing to listen to an album that is plain and simple just awesome music.
The album contains 11 tracks totaling 41:49 in length. Within those 11 tracks, vocalist Jordan Dreyer tells the story of a marriage that is collapsing, using firsthand accounts to real events, metaphors to literature, and similarities to other relationships. The album’s opening track, “HUDSONVILLE, MI 1956”, sets the stage beautifully with a thunderous introduction by the band while Dreyer calmly introduces the album before breaking down into a roaring poetic verse. The decay and erosion expressed through the story telling is meant to show how dramatic change leads to irrational outbursts and an inability to see anything in a larger picture. Dreyer utilizes the spoken-word vocal style he helped pioneer in the post-hardcore scene along with mewithoutYou’s Aaron Weiss and Listener’s Dan Smith. In this album though, he displays some versatility his style that, while previously present, was sincerely underutilized. It’s telling that Dreyer has grown more confident in himself as a vocalist and Rooms of the House is by far his finest work.
As for the rest of the band, there seems to be a sense of maturity across the board combined with a newfound creativity. Rooms of the House was written in a secluded cabin in Michigan, the band deciding to change scenery after their last two albums. In addition, the band departed No Sleep Records in favor of their own label, Better Living. These two factors seemed to have opened the band up to new ideas that are incorporated beautifully into the album. “For Mayor in Splitsville” almost sounds like a pop song, right up until the point where Dreyer is screaming one of the most emphatic lines of the album, “but I guess in the end we just move furniture around.” “Woman (In Mirror)” sounds like it’s coming out of a folk festival. The same old La Dispute sounds is present in tracks like “Stay Happy There” however, giving old school La Dispute fans a chance to enjoy the type of fast-tempo breakdown common on their first full length, Somewhere Between the
A lot of the album compares favorably to the band’s second full length, Wildlife, which was a more external examination of loss, grief, and anger in the form of an author reading his unpublished stories based on real events that occurred around Gran Rapids. Rooms of the House is much more internal by comparison, telling a personal story but still using real events. The track “35” is a dramatic re-telling of a 2007 bridge collapse that builds up and breaks down in a similar way to Wildlife’s King Park, with Dreyer’s vocals becoming more and more unstable until the climax of the song and story combine together. It’s tracks like these that distinguish La Dispute as a band; the emotional telling of a story backed by a melodic progression is something that a lot of bands fail at, but La Dispute excels at.
La Dispute is a band that will never be easy to explain, just as Rooms of the House will never be an easy album to slap a label on. The album is an emotional roller coaster that contains music written from the fingers of an eclectic and creative group of musicians. Anyone who appreciates a work of art done by people who truly know their craft should listen to this album. It is an album that appeases to fans of music, despite genre or label, and grabs attention for its deeper content as much as it does for its fulfilling sound.