March 28, 2005
DESPISTADO [I]THE PEOPLE OF AND THEIR VERSES[/I] REVIEW
Despistado understand that energy and conviction are often more important than originality; even though The People Of And Their Verses is basically a signpost of their direct musical influences, it's a fairly impressive distillation of everything that came before it. They've whittled down late '70s British punk (See Gang of Four, Wire), early '90s DC hardcore (see Nation of Ulysses or Repeater-era Fugazi), mid-'90s Midwestern emo-core (see Cap'n Jazz or Boy's Life) and turn-of-the-century indie-art-punk (pre-Vaya At the Drive-In or Q And Not U) into a digestible and thoroughly enjoyable creation. On the whole, this amalgamation never sounds too derivative of any other band; Despistado always tweaks the sounds with just enough innovation to keep cynics quiet.
The People Of And Their Verses's most engaging moments far outweigh its minor flaws. Opener "Burning House" bursts out of the gate with a dual guitar attack, some snappy snare work and vocal howls that demand attention, setting the album's frenzied pace. Likewise, "If Relationships a Construct, Then I'm a Construction Worker" draws listeners in with agile guitar work and Dagan Harding's melodic wail, which here bears a little too much resemblance to a young Cedric Bixler. Furthermore, just when The People Of And Their Verses seems to reveal itself as heavily front-loaded, the pulsating "Magnetic Streetlights" re-energizes the album with its immediate, commanding vocal chant. Although the guitars, drums and vocals are what jump at you initially, bassist Joel Passmore is Despistado's most valuable asset. His nimble yet rhythmically sound bass lines literally hold everything else together. The vocals, guitars and drums are always flying all over the place and Passmore's presence works in much the same way that John Entwistle's did with the Who -- he keeps all the rambunctious energy in check by giving the surrounding chaos a firm foundation. His funky swagger on "The Memory of This History" is a perfect example: the shout-along vocals and fractured guitars would never be as effective without his bouncy bass intro. Overall, the songs get better on subsequent spins, revealing intricacies that reward listeners who pay attention to details.
Wisely, Despistado never try to slow the pace too much, recognizing that their final album isn't the best place to screw with the formula, and that an exit is most potent when taken at full speed. Though The People Of And Their Verses doesn't necessarily capture a band that fully realized its potential, it's another left-behind gem in punk's live fast, die young history.
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