June 14, 2005
DESPISTADO [I]THE PEOPLE OF AND THEIR VERSES[/I] REVIEW
Ultra-hyper Saskatchewan spaz-rockers Despistado (that's "confused" in Spanish) may have prematurely disbanded, but they leave little to be disappointed about. The foursome's hype was glowing white-hot after 2004's splendid The Emergency Response EP, but just a year later their career fizzled out like a bum Fourth of July sparkler, too intense and searing to sustain itself. A year of rigorous touring rendered their internal relationships as jagged and volatile as their staple post-punk sound, and by January 2005 the band was champing at the bit just for Jade Tree to digitally release their full length in late spring.
Fortunately, this strife hardly taints the consistent, clockwork precision of The People of and Their Verses. For a band with their hands around each other's throats, Despistado manage to maintain breakneck tempos and tortuous song structures with the exactitude of prog but the immediacy and intimacy of punk. Whether or not the band knew this would be their last recording is debatable, but the album displays an undeniable prescience. There's a concerted effort to run the gamut between loud and soft, melodic and raucous, proto-punk and screamo, as if to leave no stone unturned. As a result, the LP fails to reproduce the incredibly dense and immaculately threaded string of ideas that decorated Despistado's EP, but the blemishes are far from glaring.
Headbanging opener "Burning House" sets a jolting tone early as frontman Dagan Harding and guitarist Leif Thorseth crash guitar riffs into each other beneath Harding's stratospheric howl, which uncannily resembles Cedric Bixler pre-Geddy Lee posturing. "If Relationships a Construct, Then I'm a Construction Worker" redeems its pretentiously indie title with a pinpoint central riff intricate enough to challenge even virtuosos the Advantage or Pretty Girls Make Graves. Okay, not to blow my riff load here, but just gimme one more-- the jaw-dropping "Victim". Bend-happy Thorseth struggles to keep his strings on the guitar until he and Harding fire intersecting raga riffs over a frenetic chorus.
Despistado stretch their talents thin, however, on mid-tempo numbers that fumble for the epic hook needed in justifying their length and lack of urgency. Melody isn't Harding's bread and butter, and some choruses fall flat without sufficient guitar and bass complementing. Regardless, the band exudes enough vigor to gloss over said weaknesses, most of which likely stem from their self-destructive work schedule in 2004. Although longevity is a commodity in the screamo/post-punk scene (see Cap'n Jazz, At the Drive-In, Sunny Day Real Estate, et al), this album, and to a greater extent Despistado's career, is sadly truncated before the brink of greatness.
DIRECT LINK TO ARTICLE