Who didn't see this one coming? It was only a matter of time before two of the Midwest's more prolific punk outfits released a split together. Hell, they both have already done one with damn near everyone else. And, leave it to relocated Red Scare Industries, which now calls Chicago home, to make it happen. Minneapolis' the Slow Death weigh in with three tracks - two originals - of rambunctious, mid-tempo punk rock; the Brokedowns, proudly hailing from Elgin, 30 miles west of Chicago, counter with three of their own brand of off-white pop-punk tunes. While both share certain similarities - the Slow Death's Jesse Thorson and the Brokedowns Jon vocals bare more than a passing semblance, and they both often harp on some ostensible notion of self-actualization - the two groups do so from fairly dissimilar punk dialects.
The Slow Death lead off with "By The Horns", a straightforward, 90's style punk rock jam about giving the big "fuck you" to a corrosive, problematic relationship in your life (į la "taking the bull"). The group effectuates the sentiment in the last minute by launching into a post-hardcore breakdown (think Hot Water Music), resized for their style, with Thorson and company shouting the scathing "I bet even you know that it's true" as the guitars play out. They follow with a cover of The Joneses' 1982 single "Pillbox". The Slow Death provide a solid, albeit safe, rendition, updating rather than reimagining. Side closer "Breakdown" is exceptionally tame - the guitars never exert past some half palm-muted strumming and a lead that calmly transitions from one chorus to another. Even Thorson, singing to his ever present other about "looking for a way out," comes off rather subdued, reinforced by his exhaustedly muttered "yeah" at the end. Without much in the way of vocal support or musical dynamism, it falls flat.
On this set of songs recorded by "the same 4 dudes as the last time" (as if the linear notes need remind us), the Brokedowns juxtapose with sub 2-minute songs marred by throaty vocals, distorted bass, nascent, angular guitars and drums - intrinsic elements for an insular cadre of musicians that call middle America home (you know the ones: The Arrivals, Off With Their Heads, Dillinger Four, etc.). But they promote a certain narrative that is well versed in these circles. On "No Mastura", they fuss over the existential crisis of being physically and mentally trapped. After referencing their plight against some Midwestern locales, it becomes clear that not even getting high can offer escape. A similar frustration is expressed on "Hand Me Down Bones", in which drums and bass troll steadily through the verses before a scream unleashes jarring guitars and some truth: "I need some new sights/ not a place to run and hide."
The BrokeDeath split (a clever eponymous title given by Toby at Red Scare) offers two versions (or sides) of disenchanted reality - the Slow Death's outwardly directed, communal prose versus the Brokedowns internal, cathartic mess. The music - and message - address fans of each and both. It proves difficult for either not to resonate, even if one appeals more than the other.