Review Summary: I'm reading over your shoulder
Long before their explorations into epic song structures, La Dispute were simply a brilliant post-hardcore band. On their debut EP Vancouver
the band may not be at their creative peak, but they prove they're capable of winning a race it often feels like they're always placing second in. With a vocal approach built off the opening scream of 'Future Wars', Jordan Dreyer conveys pure aggression in a way that evades the cringeworthy (like on Somewhere...
) or the melodramatic. Thankfully, his lyrics are much better here than any of the bands subsequent material, and his screech of 'whoever called the night a blanket had never felt the cold' on the aforementioned 'A Word of Welcome and Warning' might be the simplest metaphor for heartbreak Dreyer ever came up with.
It's vital to appreciate the vocals in order to like a La Dispute song, and that's what makes this such a great release and Somewhere...
such a poor one. Although his contributions to the latter were full of passion, the spoken word approach had yet to blossom into something beautiful, and so every time he lapsed into ranting about his heartbreak things become a tad unlistenable. This however is just straight up aggression from start to finish, with even the most fragile vocals (on 'See You In Vancouver') seeming as unwaveringly bitter. But, as Untitled
proved, even the bands greatest attempts at fury falter when the music they're churning out is horribly generic.
No such concerns should be raised towards Vancouver
. The chunky riffs sound shockingly modern despite this now being nearly nine years old, and the drums use the typically diverse percussion techniques to smother every inch of the EP. Really though it's the bassist that deserves credit here, as on every song his taut rffs create an unbearable tension broken only by Dreyers ear-splitting screams. The lack of comical growls or yelps really helps here, as it gives the band a more serious undertone that makes them much less easy to make fun of.
The best way to describe Vancouver
is 'Said the King to the River' (with that gorgeous bassline) sans the dreadful vocal delivery. Most of the songs are very similar (except closer 'Untitled' with its haunting piano) but it's still by far the strongest material they ever released, with just as many great riffs here as on Somewhere...
but a shorter time frame and lack of a unifying concept to restrict their creativity.