Part of what makes Dispatch so likeable is their raw, diverse sound. Any given song features a multitude of vocals, hard-hitting guitar riffs, or soft, soothing instrumentals. That said, it stands to reason that sitting in on a recording session with Dispatch as they tinker around and attempt new sounds is probably the best way to experience their music. And that is exactly the feel you get when listening to Four-Day Trials, a ten-track collection of first takes recorded in a studio over a four-day period in 1997. While it is not Dispatch's most accomplished album, the impromptu recording, and thus the raw sounds that emerge on the record, make it something unique. Many of the tracks on the album are popular songs heard at one of Dispatch's many electrifying shows. The unusual guitar sounds at the beginning of "Bulletholes" likens the track to an old western folk song, while the storytelling and sharp vocals give the track a spoken-word type of feel. Of course, as is the case throughout the album, "Bulletholes" saves room for several electric guitar solos accompanied by various percussion sounds. For only the second song on the album, it is a perfect example of the multitude of genres that Dispatch's music spans. "Here We Go" is the album's first spunky, fast track, and it hardly relents, avoiding the ska-sounding instrumentals for more hard-hitting and politically driven lyrics that have become a symbol of the band. Staying true to their form -- that is, to avoid any sort of musical pattern -- the album's next track is the softest, most melodic song. "Cover This" threatens to go heavy at several points, but instead reverts to more of a reggae sound, relying more on drums and other beats than guitars and keyboards in the beginning, before finally giving in to experimental guitar jamming as the lengthy song concludes. When Dispatch is not busy making their own hits, they are making other people's hits even better. "Root Down," the famous Beastie Boys song, appears late on Four-Day Trials, and with the addition of instruments and softer vocals, may even be better than the original. Who would have expected it? After all, the entire album is just a few guys messing around in a studio making a lot of good music.
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AllMusic Review by Shawn Nicholls