Review: La Dispute – Wildlife
Occasionally, Dreyer’s voice does stray just a little too close to Aaron Weiss’, on the quieter moments of a Poem in particular. The frontman’s vocals have long been the aspect of La Dispute that the majority of the band’s detractors cite as their primary issue, and certainly Dreyer forces his way into your ears with unprecedented changes in style, from wild-eyed, stream of consciousness slam poetry to brokendown sobbing to tonsil-rending screams. It’s understandable that this isn’t to everyone’s taste, but on a personal level, I’ve always enjoyed Dreyer’s take-no-prisoners style, and if anything, it works to much better effect on Wildlife than La Dispute’s debut, by virtue of the new release’s lyrics. On Somewhere… the songs were often focused around those ubiquitous relationship-based themes, with countless uses of ‘darling’, and tearfully resigned lines like ‘if I can’t love you as a lover, I will love you as a friend’. As such, the record’s songs were occasionally rendered a little too emotionally fraught by Dreyer’s delivery. However Wildlife‘s ambitious intentions are carried as much by the words that populate its tangled structure as the twisting sonic turbulence that’s built it. I See Everything details the terrifying decline of a seven year old with cancer, through the device of journal entries written by the writer’s teacher in 1980, which she later reads to her class. In the hands of a vocalist without Dreyer’s conviction and dramatic bent, the song could sound maudlin or trite. But frankly, I’m not sure there’s anyone else who could make a list of dates sound so damn vital – I’d never gotten goosebumps from the words ‘April twelve’ until now. Likewise, we’re viewing the issue at hand through so many fractured lenses – a boy dies of cancer, his last months are written about, then read out loud years later, then recounted with a personal spin by a fictional writer, then vocalised for us by La Dispute. It’s a stunningly multifaceted, literary take on post-hardcore that’s exemplary of the band and Wildlife as a whole.
Happily, Wildlife easily hits the watermark set earlier this year by Parting The Sea Between Brightness and Me and Empty Days and Sleepless Nights. Debating which release is the best would be counterproductive in this situation, but in terms of its individual merit, Wildlife succeeds by building on the sounds exhibited on Somewhere At The Bottom…, and pitting them against a potentially restrictive structure, that in fact finds the band the perfect engineers for its evolution. Where it loses some of the more immediate thrills of La Dispute’s debut full length, Wildlife shows itself to be the assured creation of a band who are opening up avenues of experimentation in what had become a relatively desolate area of musical landscape.