No Sleep Records
03 October 2011
by Alex Andrews
“Honesty is the best policy.” If ever there was a man to live that very sentiment, it’s La Dispute’s Jordan Dreyer. Yet almost as soon as he makes his entrance, Dreyer derails his train of thought to make an excuse for his idiosyncratic openness. “Not sure why I’m even writing this,” he confesses. “But I guess it feels right. It sort of feels like I have to – like an exorcism.” Even without the images of spinning heads and projectile vomiting that the ‘e’ word conjures, you probably get the idea that Wildlife isn’t exactly one to be filed under ‘easy listening.’
Half-way between rambling spoken word and an anguished howl, the band’s divisive mouthpiece is clearly still as obsessed with loss and abandonment as he was when writing the band’s 2008 debut. So achingly personal are some of the words, they could have been torn from the pages of his diary or lifted from letters that he never had the guts to send. But where Dreyer shines brightest, is as a storyteller describing the losses of others. Most brilliant is ‘King Park’, the album’s seven-minute centrepiece; a harrowing tale of the lives claimed by inner-city gang culture, with the narrator travelling back through time and space in some kind of dream or afterlife.
The flipside of Dreyer’s imposing presence is that it can be all too easy to let the rest of the band fade into the background. It’s a shame, because for the most part, there are some interesting things happening. Whilst the predictable chord patterns and driving tempos which occasionally crop up remind us of the band’s long blossoming bromance with their brothers in Touché Amoré and Defeater, the distortion switch is largely left untouched. Instead we get skeletal finger picking, liquid bass lines and long, weirdly structured songs – rarely is there anything that can be described as a chorus.
But for all the ideas and emotions that have been poured into the album, your own appreciation as a listener will inevitably depend on what you make of Jordan Dreyer, both as a singer and a lyricist. Some will find it all a bit much, but for even those who find poetry in the melodrama, when sandwiched between stories of a mother burying her seven year-old son and a family torn apart by schizophrenia, Dreyer’s more autobiographical accounts of loss (and we can assume they’re of a romantic nature) can be a little hard to swallow. Oh, and the album’s almost an hour long… way too long.
Sounds Like: At The Drive-In, Hot Cross, Defeater
Top Tracks: King Park, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Blues, Edit Your Hometown