These two bands are often mistakenly thought of as planting their flags in the camp of "Dillinger Four-influenced" punk rock. It would, in fact, be far more apt to call them peers of Dillinger Four. Tiltwheel has been around for about 13 years, placing the date of their startup right alongside that of the beloved Twin Cities outfit. As for OWTH, they hail from Minneapolis and have actually had Paddy from D4 turn up on a few of their records as bass player pro tem. So while the comparison may give you a sonic idea of what to expect, let it be known that neither of these bands are blindly aping Fat's finest.
Tiltwheel is providing their first recorded output since 2003's split CD with Watch It Burn. The long-running band has a single full-length to their name, so they won't exactly be winning any "hardest-working DIY band" awards. The lineup has taken a twist, and singer/guitarist Davey Quinn is the only familiar face. However, this new incarnation of Tiltwheel may be just as powerful as previous ones. The first track on the record, "Fuck You, This Place Is Dead Anyways" opens with some up-tempo guitar. Tiltwheel has this talent for simultaneously sounding pretty and furious, something I can't put my finger on, but it's demonstrated perfectly here. Davey starts singing in his slightly high-pitched but still gruff voice and the rest of the instruments rocket in. The tune is pretty anthemic, with non-standard song structure. The lyrics are about Florida and, as always with Tiltwheel, drinking. Davey proclaims that "I don't pray to any god so I can sleep at night." The lyrics are slightly poetic, but you can still guess as to what the fuck he's talking about. I know Tiltwheel is completely sick of the Jawbreaker comparison, but there's a reason people keep saying it. The second song is a little bit slower, a little more standard, and the lyrics are a lot more stupid. It's an angry punk rant that doesn't quite fit Tiltwheel's melancholy: "I'm gonna fucking kill you." If Davey could adopt a punk snarl I might believe him, but as it is, this song doesn't make good on what the first one promises. A pity.
Off with Their Heads have risen astronomically in popularity as of late, thanks to some high-profile releases on No Idea and Chunksaah. The more I listen to them, the less apt the much bandied-about D4 comparison seems. OWTH is much more mid-paced, much more prone to writing sing-alongs, and generally easier to digest. Dillinger Four has more substance. OWTH have made their name on writing song after song of irreversible depression and nihilism, often including drug references and thoughts of suicide. Real talk. The first song here follows suit. It may be one of their better songs, considering the blazing guitar solo and the rapid-fire lyrics. Singer Ryan Young says that "I want to blow my head off my shoulders just to kill the evil things that live inside of me," and the chorus is all about how he "just can't give a fuck." Dark stuff to be sure. Unfortunately, OWTH falls victim to the same trappings that hurt the Tiltwheel side in that the second song is not quite them. OWTH, like Tiltwheel, has had some trouble keeping a stable lineup, and this time around Alex Ulloa of Panthro UK United 13 has joined the fold. He seems to have penned the second song, and it just doesn't sound like OWTH. It's a little more rock 'n' roll, and bigger on the (really, ineffective) denunciation of religion than on the self-loathing. It simply doesn't work as an OWTH song.
So here we have a release that theoretically should've been one of the greater splits to grace the earth this year, but neither band quite brought their A-game. I highly recommend both rock outfits, but this record is not the place to start (even if "Fuck You" is one of my favorite Tiltwheel songs). An interesting side note: The Tiltwheel side of the lyric insert has one of the best layouts I've ever seen. Even that can't save the record from wallowing in unfulfilled potential, though.