This Elemae/Memorial/Soon release serves as the third in what appears to be an ongoing series of three-way split CDs from Engineer Records. Revolving around guitar-based bands of varying genres, the series attempts to showcase a little variety and diversity without creating unbridgeable musical gaps between artists.
New Jersey’s well-established Elemae sits in the first third of the disc. In almost a decade, the band’s strung together two full-length albums, an EP, a 7-inch record and enough compilation tracks to fill a decent-sized wheelbarrow. Unfortunately, two of the tracks here compare with the uninspiring parts of the Deep Elm Records catalog circa 2000 – that’s to say, there are a lot of good dual guitar parts in murky audio mixes behind uneventful vocals. The tunes are solid enough to a point, but they drone on tediously – some upbeat rhythm shifts would’ve done “Pulse” and “Fiction Mouth” a lot of good. Thankfully, Elemae’s second track, “Hospitals and Mazes,” is a fine mess of spacey guitars and grinding rhythm that stays surprisingly fresh for all of its near seven minutes.
Courtesy of Richmond, VA, Memorial fills the second third of the split with a major case of identity crisis. “Who Are We To Say” is a three-minute blast sent straight from the depths of Quicksand’s Slip. Who knew 1993 could sound so great in 2008? “If It Helps” feels more like ‘Ode to Ryan Shelkett’ as the song blends pieces of Dead Red Sea, Cross My Heart and Liars Academy in everything from the guitars and rhythms down to the vocal inflections. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just feels a little over-obvious. “Munich” closes out the Memorial portion of the split with more Quicksand similarities – only this time, the band’s biting Manic Compression-era Walter Schriefels. Any band that can ape Quicksand this capably deserves FAR more pats on the back than kicks in the ass – “Who Are We to Say” and “Munich” are the reasons to own this split.
The final third of the disc comes straight from Belgium. Experienced quintet Soon could best be described to Americans as a clean tone, Midwestern sounding Superchunk mashed up with small helpings of Grand Champeen and Sloan on “There Go the Boys.” The highlight of Soon’s three-song set, however, is the bass-driven burner “Inverse Ratio” – the guitar flare-ups are tight, and when the rapid-fire bass part signals the mid-song breakdown, the song kicks seven kinds of righteous ass. Unfortunately, Soon tarnishes that a bit by closing with the rather droll “Serenade the City.” The song is only salvaged from ‘throwaway’ status by the fact that it previously appeared on the band’s album Under the Wire back in 2005.
Decent stuff again from the Engineer Records three way split collection…Memorial cranks out three awesome tunes, and Elemae and Soon toss in a solid track apiece for good measure. Any time a three-way split’s got something good to offer from everyone involved, things are bound to be alright. Thumbs up.