Here is an intriguing split album that brings together an unlikely pairing of countries with Libyan Hit Squad representing the United States of America and Round Eye, coming forward on behalf of China, not a place normally renowned for being a hot bed of alternative music. However, somehow this release has been made possible and it's got to be said that this is one hell of a listen from start to finish with both bands making sure that both countries should be proud of their musical sons.
Up first is Libyan Hit Squad and it would seem that having Greg Ginn play on one track is worthy of a mention on the front cover of the CD version (I'm not sure if that's also the case for the LP). The first track, "Blown Asshole," comes across at times like an amalgamation of the Descendents and What Happens Next?, throwing itself around with much aplomb for a whole 52 seconds, and in the process it certainly perks up my ears. It's evident that this is far from a straightforward take on punk and that is continued with the excellent "Rubber Shoes," which has elements that remind me of the Big Boys, along with another Randy "Biscuit" Turner outfit, Cargo Cult.
Across the six tracks offered up by Libyan Hit Squad, in addition to the bands already mentioned there are influences that come from the likes of the Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Black Flag, providing a constant reminder of the glory days of the SST label that Greg Ginn ran. In fact, it's obvious as to why Ginn might have wanted in on this project as his input on the instrumental track "Full Circle" is in line with what the band itself ar doing and doesn't make me think that he'd been crowbarred onto the album. Beyond that track, the following three tunes really hit the mark, with "Brave New World" offering up catchiness mixed in with some Mike Watt-like basslines. "Faulty Bridge" and "Lift Your Knees" maintain the quality from the Floridians, with a sense of drive and purpose (which I would say on one level is to produce music that challenges but is not overly challenging to listen to) that grooves its way into my head with ease.
So, Libyan Hit Squad are not an easy act to follow but Round Eye don't seem to be phased, hitting the ground running with a self-titled track that opens with a classic R'n'B riff (and not that crap passed off as R'n'B in the charts these days, I mean more the Dr. Feelgood / WIlko Johnson kind of thing that came in the 1970s) before descending into a Rocket From The Crypt-like saxophone lead instrumental - not exactly what one would imagine might surface from the Chinese Republic! On "Kenting," Round Eye remind me a lot of Muhammadali, with a similar ability to create a melodic cacophony though a haze of sludge: quality. Surprisingly, "I'm So Young" is all about the 50s doo-wop sound, yet there is still an undercurrent of that previously heard sludge to found primarily through the bass line. "Carne Seca" resurrects the Muhammadali reference before ending on another track, "Got Her Runnin'" that cracks open an R'n'B guitar riff ahead of some saxophone histrionics which lead nicely into some vocals that at times sound like Leonard Graves Philips (The Dickies).
Reading the credits in the CD it does seem as if each band shares one particular member and also despite being recorded in China, personnel such as Bob Brown, Lewis Maplethorpe and Jimmy Jack lead me to believe that some/all of the members of Round Eye might, just might, not be native to that country. I would be happy to receive confirmation from anyone in the know!
Anyhow, this split brings together two bands (apparently) separated by some physical distance and joins them in an unholy musical union that provides a well-rounded and widely influenced album. This is one of the best splits albums I've heard in a long time.