Once upon a time -- like, pre-dating social media time -- "screamo" wasn't a dirty word. For a relatively brief but enthusiastic period in the mid-'90s to maybe the early '00s, it was a purely underground thing, borne out of hardcore. There was almost no sonic resemblance to the later slick, heavily marketed acts of the mid-'00s and beyond.
Instead, long-forgotten acts like Orchid, Saetia, Hot Cross, and others popular on the d.i.y.-space and basement-show circuit melded late-period hardcore with weirder stuff. Vocals were sung and squawked alternately and the music itself approached free-jazz levels of near-absurdity. But it was raw and felt honest -- not like the much alter generations that codified the loud-soft, loud-soft dynamic into a formula.
The guys of Michigan five-piece La Dispute are too young to have truly experienced any of that, but they've clearly done their homework. Led by frontman Jordan Dreyer, the group specializes in an update of those old experimental sounds, one that's now dubbed the made-up word "skramz" to distinguish it as influenced by screamo, v 1.0, than all the other stuff that came after.
La Dispute isn't just a straight-up ripoff of the not-so-retro past, though, but rather incorporates post-hardcore leanings with some doses of blues, jazz, and even spoken word. In fact, it's the latter that is probably the band's most distinguishing characteristic. Dreyer's vocals are more verbally riffed than technically sung, spewing out fragments of poetry and narrative to create images and feelings that can be overblown, nut usually not boring.
Interestingly, rather than stick to the me-me-me pseudo personal style so common in this genre, Dreyer instead often creates wholly fictional stories, especially on the band's latest album, Wildfire. You can stream the whole thing below in advance of the band's upcoming show at the Talent Farm on Friday, April 20. It's an exceptional booking for that all-ages Pembroke Pines venue -- with buzz building for La Dispute way outside of its scene circles, this is an act that could easily fill Culture Room or a similar venue.
La Dispute. With Balance and Composure, All Get Out, and Sainthood Reps. 7 p.m. Friday, April 20 at the Talent Farm, 20911 Johnson St., Pembroke Pines. Tickets cost $14.50; all ages. Click here.
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