Reviews of splits are hard.
Somehow there is this innate temptation to make it into a competition between the two bands. It's an easy way to approach it, just focus on who is the better of the two, and turn it into a play-by-play commentary, sign your name and move on. Of course, sometimes you run into the tricky situation of two bands who produce something of equally high quality. One Man Army and the Alkaline Trio have done exactly that with the release of this split.
Take the Trio, with their first real release since last years Good Mourning, a record which evenly polarized fans, with myself falling into the less than completely enthusiastic camp. BYO's fifth split sees the band return to form. The most immediately noticeable aspect is how much Matt's voice has regained it's strength, but more importantly than that, the Trio continues their streak of releasing consistently high quality material for splits and compilations.
Reunited with producer Matt Allison, who was responsible for almost all the bands recorded output, the bands sounds perfectly recorded. Unlike the somewhat unflattering production by the normally consistent Jerry Finn on Good Mourning, this split boasts a thick guitar sound, and both Matt and Dan's vocals balance perfectly with the instrumentation. On production alone, the Trio's tracks sound incredible.
Musically, the band seems to be amalgamating all of it's previous experimentations into a more mature sound. Touches of Hell Yes, From Here to Infirmary and Maybe I'll Catch Fire are present on the tracks which are a little less aggressive but completely compelling.
The band manages to play tribute to two of it's heroes (three if you read into it). Joining Matt on "Dead and Broken" is Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun, an undeniable influence on the Trio. Also contributed is a cover of The Damned's "Wait for the Blackout" - an unimaginative selection from a band with such a diverse catalog - but certainly well executed. The highlight of the Trio's contributions is "Sadie", an anthemic ode to one of Charles Manson's "progeny," a track which shares some errie parallels to the Misfits' "She."
After the Trio's fairly dark half of the disc, the One Man Army tracks seem positively prozac-fueled. The biggest difference between the bands BYO and Adeline full lengths and their contributions to the split is certainly the amount of emphasis on Jack Dalyrymple's unique voice and vocal inflections; a voice which has typically been more hidden in the mix, or layered under gang vocals.
In comparison to the bands last record Rumors and Headlines, the tracks are a little poppier, but still maintain the bands perfectly modern tribute to the classic punk sound. The six songs are among the catchiest and most addictive the band has ever put to disc, and will undoubtedly win this vastly underrated band some much deserved attention. "All The Way" is especially memorable, beginning with chords on a piano, before breaking into some of the best melodies on the split.
It's hard to find any fault with any of the tracks on the disc, and frankly I can expect that this will rank among BYO's best and biggest releases, and with good reason.
Reviews of splits are hard.