It’s such a lame-ass way to describe a record, but this three-way split CD feels a lot like a good all-ages basement show. All three bands do the guitar-bass-drums thing (so there’s no extremely awkward style clashing going on), though the genres are distinct enough to make it obvious that a new band is playing every three or four songs.
Saboteur opens the disc with three tracks of tight rock with interwoven two-guitar rhythms – no surprise considering half of the band members are alumni of Red Animal War and Slowride. To anyone who’s previously heard RAW, Justin Wilson’s vocals are immediately recognizable, and the music behind his voice is what one would expect. Tight guitars barrel over thumping rhythms for eight minutes here, and while the songwriting is a bit predictable, these tracks are admittedly about as good as it gets for this sort of thing. “Bitchin’ Into Oblivion” features some fantastic rhythmic and vocal pacing, especially during the flailing call of, “You can’t keep holding on to the broken arm of a dying love song.” “The Working Class Will Kick Your Ass” carries a punk edge; that and the more aggressive vocal approach makes this the band’s standout track.
The Mockingbird Nightmare leans a bit more towards the dual-vocal, ‘screamo’ end of things through its three offerings here. Pop sensibility reigns supreme, of course, but not in a tragically obvious ‘we’re like a boy band only we scream and play loud guitars in vintage t-shirts and sweaters’ manner. These guys actually sound a lot like what Race Car Riot would’ve been if they’d had the guy from These Arms Are Snakes singing full-time. Opener “You Can Keep All the Prizes and Give Them to Charity, I Just Want to Be on Television” doles out an impressive lot of dual-guitar rhythms, but the band blossoms biggest on the spacey 5 1/2 minute “Show Me All the Blueprints.” The band adds dabs of the Cure through the guitar sounds, and the end result is phenomenal, with the slightly grimy vocals laid out over echoing tones and seriously all-over-the-place drumming. The track kills when the smoldering epic extended guitar break hits towards the last half of things.
The surprising high point of the collection comes with the inclusion of Red Light Green Light. Band frontman Derek Reilly formerly served as the drummer of Hidden in Plain View (of minor Drive Thru Records fame), though it’s quite obvious from the opening of intro “Dance Party @ Ferro Monte” that this is a totally different animal. Goth quality synth waves open the track, though before long those disappear behind a wall of crunching guitars. Reilly’s voice sounds like a mash-up of the two guys that semi-front From Autumn to Ashes – when he ‘raps’ and talk sings, he sounds a lot like the more emo-ish drummer; when he wants to metal growl, though, shit gets brutal fast. Bleeding together with the intro track, “Cliché College Whit, More or Less” is a fierce three minutes, taking a riff worthy of The Hellacopters and laying it to waste with killer synth lines and oddly rapped/screamed vocals. Strange as it sounds, the combination slays. The band follows with two decent tracks from the pre-existing Music Theory is for Suckers album, but quite frankly, those songs are completely irrelevant. The entire price of this split disc is worth the opening five minutes of Red Light Green Light’s first two tracks.
All in all, every band dishes out at least two tracks of quality material, making this disc a no-brainer for folks who can groove on different styles of guitar-based rock. In addition, each band offers a splash of enhanced material for folks privy to tossing the disc into a computer, putting a nice bit of icing on what is a surprisingly tasty musical cake. This split three-way disc sets the kind of example more indie labels and bands should follow in the future, indeed. Then again, if the bands suck, the concept becomes moot. Luckily, ‘suck’ isn’t a word that should be often tossed around about this release.