Having listened to "A Stirstick's Prediction", the first cut off The Emergency Response, more times than I care to mention, I can honestly say the six-song EP is worth having for "Stirstick's" singular brilliance. It's an absurdly catchy, blitzkrieg anthem that, despite the clumsy chorus ("That's very anti-patriarchal of you"), is some of the most balls-out post-punk I've heard since Hot Water Music's Forever and Counting.
Fortunately, "Stirstick" isn't the only reason to check out the EP. In fact, it's the only song of the strictly straight-ahead variety. Despistado manages to dance between the straightforward and the angular the way Fugazi did with Repeater and Steady Diet of Nothing. Imagine that unpredictability combined with the fury and density of At the Drive In and the catchiness of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. These guys from Saskatchewan thrive on building layered, complex compositions, but still knowing how to rock.
Take the driving, anthemic opening cut, the jazzy tom and bass rolls of "Taste This Picture"(reminiscient of the Cure's smack-addled "The Hanging Garden"), and the James Brown-like guitar licks of "Hi-fi Stereo", and you've got a fairly incongruent range of sounds, yet none seem out of place. Add some surf rock guitar, some hand claps, two vocalists who compliment each other's timbre flawlessly, a lyricist who (for the most part) appreciates unpretentious, grand metaphors over simplistic rants, and a "Kashmir"-sounding interlude, and a mere six songs hardly seem adequate.
Of the six tracks, five are pretty damn impressive. "Can I Have an Order of Girl with a Side of Confused?" isn't as bad as you would think, but again, the chorus is awkward, and the dull guitars tend to drone. The song is briefly saved when the guitars drop and the vocalists shout an indecipherable chant, but the song quickly drifts back into a fuzzed-out tedium.
For a first effort, however, The Emergency Response is as strong as debuts get. And despite having a band name that sounds like Conor Oberst's short lived rock project (Desparacedos), Despistado is generating a sound all its own. Hopefully, their full length, which should be out some time in October, will pick up where the EP left off.