I've heard and read a lot of bands in my day get compared to Hot Water Music that just end up sounding like Leatherface. All in Vinyl’s third installment of their split series provides us with two bands that show us exactly the difference, with the Great St. Louis and Red City Radio. (If you seemed to have forgotten the HWM and Leatherface split of the BYO series.)
The first I heard of Bolton, UK’s the Great St. Louis was their faithful cover of “I Don’t Want to Be the One to Say It” off of Rubber Factory Records tribute to Frankie Stubbs and Co. that came out in 2008. The tone of impressive lead that opens up “Safe” and the cigarette-soaked vocals will appear familiar, but the melody of the gang vocals and guitar parts give way to a heavy cowpunk/alt-country lean. If you missed the Social Distortion influence of Nothington’s All In on their second LP, this song will undoubtedly get a lot of spins. Their side finishes with “World’s Collide,” a harder and darker number that has that distinct '90s British melodic punk sound of bands like Broccoli and China Drum. Aside from some pitchy vocals which are minor enough to come off as charming imperfections, the chorus is sure to have you singing along: "Worlds collide, I don’t want to say goodbye, I've been holding on to life. Is this enough to make you cry, when you don’t believe in nothing?"
Red City Radio are on the flipside and they released one of the most impressive EP’s of 2009 with To the Sons & Daughters of Woody Guthrie, mixing great-plains weariness, countless un-locatable influences and the bright and captivating sounds of HWM’s Caution. Their first official followup to that carries a certain amount of expectation, but the two songs found here were actually recorded prior to that EP. As such, they almost sound like a different band here, if To the Sons & Daughters Of Woody Guthrie made nods to Caution, then “Unburdened” and “Bike Thief” feel more like the grit of Fuel for the Hate Game, especially the mournful “Bike Thief.“ “Unburned” features some of RCR's best sing-alongs in the hook "And you could try and save the day. But who would help you celebrate? Unburned," while articulately exploring what it means to be an American in the ‘aughts. The band’s vocal play isn't quite to the level it is at on their latest recordings, but you can see the see their development. “Bike Thief” sadly gives away a weaknesses in RCR’s side of the split. Dally’s drumming is some of the most impressively quick we've yet to see on record from him but the recording itself kind of makes the drums sound like they are being beat against wet paper bags, deflating some of the energy. That shouldn't stop you from listening to their side just as often, though, because even though the band hasn't hit their stride yet on these recordings, the songwriting is still top-notch.
If you like the bands in the opening namedrop of this review, will you like this split? Probably! But there is enough personality and originality to prevent you from tossing this aside in favour of those older, more seasoned bands--especially since neither of them have released anything in the past half-decade.