I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
Welcome to Split City, home of the hard-rockin’ Bad Vibrations and their lower-fidelity cousins Bloodhouse.
We here at Critical Masses like split EPs. They offer a glimpse into the psyche of two (or more) bands that, through some cosmic force unknown to us, converge in one place and one time, and are thus forever linked. Splits, in physical format, are often pressed in low quantities, making them difficult to find at your favorite music retailer (yes, I chuckled a bit there too), and therefore all the more exciting and substantial when you inevitably unearth a cool one in a dingy old bin under a card table. Not everybody’s gonna find that Killdozer/Ritual Device gray marbled 10-inch where each covers a Led Zeppelin tune – you know the one, each side is designed like a pack of cigarettes: Lucky Strikes for Killdozer and Pall Malls for Ritual Device. But you didn’t come here to talk about my wicked vinyl finds, did you? Or wait – did you?
Nowadays your avenues for discovery are multiple and instant, with a good word here and a generous band there all you need to track down music. You know with that whole Internet phenomenon and everything, you don’t even have to leave your house, let alone talk to the pierced and tatted hipster manning the last grungy storefront in a hundred-mile radius. He’s only going to shake his head at the fact that you’re buying Unknown Pleasures on vinyl for the first time, the reissued version nonetheless. And in 2011. You dumb, dumb wanker. Clearly you’re not fit to grace his presence – and he knows you wish your sneakers and glasses were as cool as his. But I digress into some repressed collegiate insecurity, and I think you’re probably finding out way more about me than you are about this split EP. I’m two paragraphs in and I haven’t even mentioned it yet.
So where was I? Oh right, the Internet. The record crate of the digital age. Now where have I heard that before…?
Bad Vibrations and Bloodhouse are perfect Internet bands. Each works within a grunge/garage idiom, and the fidelity issues inherent in the style are apparent on this split. Or put another way, they bash out punk numbers with their needles in the red. At any rate, the fact that this EP is a free download should serve as the best kind of marketing for bands like these that operate on the fringes, as their audiences will surely increase as a result of the accessibility. Here you have one-stop-shopping for some quality music. It doesn’t get easier. And you don’t have to travel to Halifax, Nova Scotia (that’s in Canada, you silly people), which is where both bands are from, to get your grubby little mits on merch.
Bad Vibrations lead off the split, and they’re certainly the more accessible of the two. Leader KC Spidle has been around for a bit, banging the skins in former band Dog Day, and also participating as half of Husband and Knife. Here he takes the reins and plows us with four excellent rock numbers, evoking early Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, and contemporaries Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and No Age, the latter in particular on the droning back half of “Face the World.” But the true keepers are opener “Waking Up,” a caffeinated BMSR-style biker bar rave up, and EP-half-closer “Aurora,” their, er, stadium anthem. In fact, of the two bands I think I’d choose to attend a Bad Vibrations show – they just seem to have that dim-lit, smoke-machine murk that any underground rock club worth its salt could turn into a transcendent experience.
But if Bad Vibrations is the band you’d want to see live, then Bloodhouse is the one you’d want to be friends with, whose practice space you’d want to hang out in. Their songs come faster, shorter, and redder, as the fuzz cranks to ungodly levels and the reverb-treated vocals test every limit of the microphone’s capacity. These are guys who practice mid-buzz, chugging beers with their buds before plugging in and hitting record. The energy is frantic – not one of the four songs lasts past 2:21, and the shortest is a measly 1:00, so they get about half the runtime of Bad Vibrations’ side. Not that it matters, the songs are strong, particularly “Endless Vacation” and “The Front,” as impossibly melodic vocals keep pace with the careening kit and stompbox riffing. Everybody’s smiling, and by the end, there are more beers to go around. “My Bloodhouse is your Bloodhome,” they’d say. Dig?
Weirdly, there isn’t a single repository for this record, so you’ll have to make trips to two different bandcamp sites. I know, such a pain. Maybe you should write an angry e-mail, you ungrateful person. For those of you who don’t have a heart of stone, Bad Vibrations is here and Bloodhouse is here. Tell ’em I sent ya.
RIYL: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, No Age, Mudhoney