In the liner notes, Four-Day Trials is described as something "in between a live album and a studio album". Originally intended to be an EP, the album was captured over four days (as its title suggests) in the studio, playing a few new songs, a few previously released songs, and...a Beastie Boys cover?
Dispatch albums' (and the band itself's) greatest strength was their unerring ability to balance whatever style of music came out, be it rock, reggae, funk, rap, or folk, never falling into a pattern. Four-Day Trials is no exception to this. Those who are familiar with the Dispatch formula - that is, all three members writing songs and trading instruments, wrapping awesome harmonies around the songs - won't find many surprises, but then again, Dispatch never plays it safe either.
When considering Dispatch albums, it's hard to not look at it with other Dispatch albums in mind. Unlike other releases, there are no acoustic folk songs here. As with the whole Dispatch discography, there is hardly a bad song here. What Do You Wanna Be
opens the album in fine form, with one of the catchiest wah pedal hooks ever. The easy funk immediately lets you know what to expect from the rest of the album: raw, energetic performances. As the song builds energy (and tempo), you hear the three shouting back and forth to each other, and it's not hard to imagine that you're in the studio with them.
This energy is what keeps the album moving forward. On Here We Go
, both previously released on Bang Bang, you can almost feel the electricity pumping through the band. "High voltage" Chetro tells his bandmates at the beginning of Mission
, and it certainly is. The band rips through Root Down
, clearly loving every second of it. Covering a Beastie Boys song might not make sense in theory, but the band's full-throttle performance puts to rest any doubts. Wide Right Turns
rides a cool groove, and Hubs
bounces along somewhere between funk and reggae. At just over five minutes, Hubs
suffers from being a bit repetitive, but it's by no means unbearable. On the other end of the spectrum, Headlights
is the most emotional song on the album, and serves as a chance to catch your breath as the last track.
Picking the highlights of Four-Day Trials is easy, though. Bullet Holes
and Cover This
sum up everything that is great about Dispatch. Cover This
emphasizes the band's interaction, as all three members trade off lines over a genius riff. The chorus is guaranteed to stick in your head, and the song concludes with an interesting jam. The song is fantastic, original, and it all sounds so effortless
– you'll ask yourself why hadn't anyone thought of this before?
's greatness is only succeeded by Bullet Holes
, the masterpiece of the album. Bouncing along over Pete's shuffling guitar riff and spoken word verses, the emotional track is handled with restraint that makes it all the more gripping. The uplifting gospel-styled harmonies in the chorus, tasty guitar solo midway through, and the unexpected (but genius) time change at the end make Bullet Holes
another incredible example of amazing songwriting.
Four-Day Trials' greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it was all recorded live, and it sounds like it. The rawness and breathlessness works well for individual songs, but the album as a whole can feel a bit unfocused. It's not a particularly long album, though, so it's not a glaring problem. In fact, there are no glaring problems with the album. When it comes down to it, what matters (at least to me) is if a band can write a good song. Dispatch can write great songs. Look no further than Four-Day Trials for proof.