La Dispute
Rooms of the House


3.5
great

Review

by Mike Denison USER (23 Reviews)
March 21st, 2014 | 17 replies


Release Date: 03/18/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not enough is happening at once.

Sometimes, discussing an album in the context of its immediate predecessors is a lazy crutch, an introduction that writes itself. But with a band as polarizing as La Dispute, to neglect context would be to prove oneself ignorant. Somewhere At the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair was an indulgent mess of an album, but even as Jordan Dreyer desperately tried to convince every listener that his breakup was really the biggest thing to happen to anyone ever, no one could deny the energy and passion that the band delivered, misplaced though it may be. Wildlife was an astounding refinement, channeling Dreyer's frantic rants into a more focused, balanced effort where La Dispute was no longer 100% about Dreyer (even if he still was clearly the ringleader), and turning junior-high "woe is me" to poignant tales of legitimate frustration and confusion. By all accounts, La Dispute had figured themselves out.

Rooms of the House, though, heads too far down the trail that Wildlife blazed, forgetting what made La Dispute catch the post-hardcore world's attention in the first place. Yes, fine, Somewhere was cringe-inducingly melodramatic at times. But it's hard to imagine a post-hardcore band that was more desperate to convey its emotion. We laughed at Somewhere, but we could relate on some level, even if it was just in the sense of dredging up 8th-grade memories. But Wildlife, though doomed to criticism by many simply by bearing the La Dispute name, told us stories that were not just far better worded, but far more universal. Not every listener has experienced the decay of a suburban hometown -- but everyone, certainly, has wondered about the validity of their own pain and sadness, and why some people are just so much better equipped to handle it all. It was deeply personal, perhaps autobiographical, but there was an unshakable sense that when Dreyer sang our names in unison, he wasn't lying.

And here lies the crux of this latest effort's flaws. Personal stories are all well and good, compelling even. But to put a personal story to music and demand that it's worthy of public attention requires some element of universality, some common ground where everyone can meet. And Rooms of the House, though in many ways a musically more impressive album, lacks that common ground -- which is why it's merely a pleasantly enjoyable album that falls several steps short of fans' colossal expectations.

In a classic case of exceptions proving rules, we have the album's lead single, "For Mayor in Splitsville." It's as radio-ready as La Dispute has ever been, with something that comes dangerously close to a chorus, and it finds Dreyer returning to the topic of a failing relationship. But there's no operatic tale here. He pulls mundane details, like memories of playing house and the look in a father's eye, finds a striking metaphor for his own relationship, and points out an ecclesiastical futility in it all -- "But I guess, in the end, we just moved furniture around." It's a vastly more mature, better-executed version of the entirety of Somewhere's message, and arguably the album's strongest song.

But as a counterpoint we have songs like "35". Musically, it's fantastic. The tradeoffs between somber buildups and gritty, snappy stanzas are well-executed -- but the lyrics fall flat, regaling a tale of a car crashing into a river and throwing in some half-hearted ties to Dreyer's (or his main character's) own life. But the connections are too flimsy for any lasting impact. "The Child We Lost 1963" should, by all means, be an emotional tour de force, and the band paces themselves well before the inevitable climax. But the song doesn't have anything beneath the surface -- it's a very specific tale of a lost child, with nothing for most listeners to relate to. It's not that the topics themselves don't have potential to be heavy hitters like "King Park" or "I See Everything"; too many times Dreyer just leaves the listener wondering where he's going with all of this.

On a clinically objective level, there are enjoyable songs on this album than failures. In fact, just about every song, from the zippy "Stay Happy There" to the surprisingly stripped-down closer "Objects in Space," has some redeeming value. The sudden emphasis on dynamics is a welcome change of pace. Devoid of historical context, this is, on the whole, quite a strong album. But Rooms of the House lacks the gripping immediacy of Wildlife, that urgent sense that makes you feel like you absolutely have to listen to it again just to process the tide of emotions. For all the improvements in the songwriting process, Dreyer is still front and center, and it's his stories that elevate La Dispute above its contemporaries, or bury the band as a quirky experiment. His latest tales can be appreciated, maybe even enjoyed, but they just don't captivate.



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user ratings (507)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ProjectFreak
March 21st 2014


1411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The ProjectFreak special: the disappointed 3.5

Digging: From Indian Lakes - Absent Sounds

ASnideReturns
March 21st 2014


5241 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Needs a negative review now. Good review though, pos.

Digging: Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare

SeaAnemone
March 21st 2014


20527 Comments


yeah being a stickler for ratings is dum but at the same time: there is a pretty absurd disconnect from you disparaging the album throughout and then calling it great

Digging: Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

ProjectFreak
March 21st 2014


1411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i struggle with this a lot actually
i'm just really bummed at how much worse it is than Wildlife

Wadlez
March 21st 2014


4292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It really isn't though

Digging: Kayo Dot - Coffins On Io

SeaAnemone
March 21st 2014


20527 Comments


scares me that they can actually get worse than wildlife. will stay far far away from this.

Pheromone
March 21st 2014


3633 Comments


It's considerably better

Digging: Squirrel Bait - Skag Heaven

ShitsofRain
March 21st 2014


5911 Comments


3.5 doesnt look like disappointment

Digging: Round One to Round Five - 1993-99 Main Street Records

SnakeDelilah
March 21st 2014


7885 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Snide Write one

Digging: Sun Kil Moon - Benji

GmemberKills
March 21st 2014


941 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed hard with this review. Nice to finally see one not having this so high also. This review is well written though so have a pos.

TheSupernatural
March 21st 2014


1239 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Really agree with the review, but I only gave the album one listen. I feel like they tried to hard to replicate the beautiful dynamic storytelling that Wildlife had, but they forgot to bring the edgy sound.

Without the brilliant lyricism, I'd probably rate this a lot lower

Digging: Closure in Moscow - Pink Lemonade

ASnideReturns
March 21st 2014


5241 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

@snake: I might, I just really don't know if this is an album worth my time to write a review on.

Wadlez
March 21st 2014


4292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Alrighty

ProjectFreak
March 21st 2014


1411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Shits: for reference, I 5'd Wildlife

Azn.
March 21st 2014


5612 Comments


band isn't that good

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Calc
March 21st 2014


12249 Comments


"Sometimes, discussing an album in the context of its immediate predecessors is a lazy crutch, an introduction that writes itself. But with a band as polarizing as La Dispute, to neglect context would be to prove oneself ignorant."

what I gathered:

I'm acknowledging that the writing trope I'm about to use is lazy, but fuck it its La Dispute I gotta do it. Good review though.

Digging: Milo - A Toothpaste Suburb

ProjectFreak
March 21st 2014


1411 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Essentially.



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