In 1984, pioneering punk band Black Flag released their third album, Family Man. Its A-side consisted of nothing but spoken word pieces, while its B-side covered the usual hard-and-fast punk that the band was known for.
Twenty-five years later, Michigan based quintet La Dispute has combined the two styles of music to form something uniquely their own. Their debut album, 2008’s Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair was a resounding critical success.
Combining clean and aggressive guitar with dub influenced bass drums, their aggressive sound resonated well with punk audiences.
What was most impressive, however, was vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s seamless segue between spoken word and screamed vocals. His lyrics spoke mostly in metaphors and questions, and were often delivered so swiftly that they were difficult to comprehend before the next verse starts.
Music and vocals meshed flawlessly and La Dispute became a driving factor in reviving a genre of music that for too long had been watered down by MTV and Warped Tour.
After releasing several EPs, La Dispute has returned with their second full studio album, Wildlife. And … it’s boring.
Perhaps that is a bit too disingenuous. The album contains everything that was fantastic about their first album. The high-level bass and drums return, as does the clean yet insistent guitar. Most importantly, Dreyer’s lyrics and delivery have not lost one bit of their intensity or intelligence.
However, the band seems far too content to rest on their laurels. Wildlife does absolutely nothing that their first album doesn’t do better. It runs nearly the exact same length and hits all the same notes.
Outside of standout track “The Most Beautiful Bitter Fruit,” the album is completely indistinct. Three songs in, the listener is likely to lose track of where they are in the album. This feeling doesn’t leave until the last notes of the closing track fade away.
It is difficult to say what really went wrong with the album. It is moderately enjoyable and adds several shout-along songs to their set list. But given the pedigree this band has built up, Wildlife is a significant disappointment.
2 stars out of 5