Dispatch keeps on

Forget any stereotypes of Dispatch (formerly One Fell Swoop) as a talented, acoustic-college-rock group that is better live than in the studio. Who Are We Living For, the band’s fourth album, is by far its best, an eclectic mix of rock, funk, reggae and folk.

From the opening instrumental, “Everybody Clap,” to the closing instrumental, “Douggie Mayu’s,” the music flows brilliantly, drawing the listener in like a live show. For the first time in Dispatch history there are distorted guitars, scratching, loops, sampling and other forms of experimentation, but the intense three-part vocals remain front and center.

This is not today’s mainstream pop album with one or two hit singles surrounded by a bunch of throw-ins; it is best experienced with continuous listening. Seven of the 17 tracks are instrumentals that keep the overall flow going while allowing for more experimentation. Album highlights include “Time Served,” a pounding, riff driven alt-rock song, “Headlights,” a dreamy, chilling alt-rock song and the funky “Just Like Larry.”

Long time fans will be comfortable with a few classic-style Dispatch songs, the reggae-rock “Open Up,” and the ballads “Carry You” and “Prince of Spades,” but it may take several listens to begin to understand and appreciate the band’s new sound.

Dispatch consists of Brad “Braddigan” Corrigan, Pete “Repete” Heimbold, and Chad “Chetro” Urmston. All three sing and are extremely talented musically, often switching up their instrumental lineup, which most frequently is Braddigan on drums, Repete on bass, and Chetro on guitars.

Although they have regularly been criticized for their lyrics, Who Are We Living For demonstrates marked improvement. Some lyrics are poetic, while others demonstrate social and political awareness, as in “Open Up:” “I ain’t opposed to seeking justice/But you’re going about it all wrong/The man you’re looking for does not exist/he’s just a figment of the higher man’s tongue.”

Who Are We Living For is a must-own for any Dispatch fan, and a great addition to any CD collection.