Split seven-inches don't come much more apropos than this onbe. On it, two legendary bassists who made peerless developments in punk rock, who were both on SST records, who both come from Southern California, who both are kinda weird, each revamp an older track into something simultaneously new and timeless.
The Chuck Dukowski Sextet tackle Dukowski's own "My War." Although this is actually the band's second time tackling the iconic anthem of disaffection, the 2012 version is markedly different than the version found on their debut LP. The older version was a bit more experimental, with shrieking woodwinds taking the place of guitars. But, since then, The CD6 has shed members, with only Dukowski and vocalist Lora Norton remaining, and is now supplemented by Norton's son, Milo Gonzales, and drummer Ashton Slater. The new version is more guitar-drive than the previous Velvet Underground-ish take, but the more standard use of "rock" instruments allows the band to pull out every nasty lick in the song. Propelled by Dukowski's monstrous bass, the band charges forward in the tune's most energetic and rapid rendition to date. Interestingly, Gonzales' guitar pulls equally from '70s hard rock and nasty hardcore, creating a vengeful, but soulful attack that fascinatingly does seem to have a bit of Gregg Ginn in it. Norton shreds her vocals, screaming with a furor that seems both unhinged and organic. This isn't screaming for effect--this is screaming because she felt like screaming.
Undoubtedly, comparisons to Black Flag's iconic take are bound to occur. This version isn't necessarily better than the original 1984 cut…but then again, maybe it is. Despite the energy of the original, it seemed just a little sluggish and under rehearsed, whereas here the band is loose on the striking, but tight when locking together, making the song both berserk and cohesive. While Rollins' take seemed to invite the listener inside of his own brain to share in his anguish, Norton is just so furious that one can't help but stand back, trying to get out of the way. On the West Memphis 3 tour, Rollins himself said that "My War" was the greatest song ever written. As with the original, this new sound recording shows that he was probably right.
On the flipside, Mike Watt and the Missing Men flip Roky Erikson's "Sweet Honey Pie" into something almost completely different. While the original version is something of an Erickson rarity, existing in various demos and remakes across his career, all of them seem to be rooted in proto-doowop rock, perhaps with a touch of Haight and Ashbury twang. By contrast, the Missingmen version beefs up every aspect of the song. Where it used to be a delicate easy going bopper, Watt's version charges forward with thicker bass, thicker drums, thicker guitar, thicker vocals and thicker everything. Where it used to be a country tune played in a rock style, Watt has flipped it into a rock song with some country on the edges.
Most interesting is Watt's delivery. He opts to use the thick raspy version of his voice, and in doing so, almost leads the song into John Mellencamp (or perhaps John Doe) territory. As is Watt's style, he takes the fairly odd Erickson lyrics and bends them into the song so much that at a distanced listen, they sound just like normal phrases. Only upon deeper inspection is the true horror of the underlying phrases apparent; a good analogy for both Erickson and Watt.
Splits often exist as a way of introducing fans of one side of the record to the other half. Not so with this release. Rather, two bass legends tackle legendary songs in their own respective legendary style. This is the stuff that legends are made of.