EP Review: Brendan Kelly / Sam Russo – ‘Split the Tip’

Brendan Kelly is a pretty well known name in the modern punk scene. From every single one of the bands he’s played in, to the lengthy blog ramblings, to his oft-retweeted one liners on Twitter, Kelly has become as big a celebrity as a punk can become without turning his music into a Broadway musical (probably). Sam Russo, on the other hand, is not as well known. That said, the more-folk-than-punk singer has been around the block: two years ago he joined Kelly and Dan Andriano on their European tour, and in 2013 he was signed to Red Scare Industries and traveled the US with Masked Intruder and Elway. Regardless of much weight their name carries in the scene, the two have teamed up together to release the four song split EP, Split the Tip, highlighting what gives them their own unique voices and styles.

[Wait! Before I go any further, I was wrong. Laura Jane Grace is definitely a bigger punk rock celebrity, but Kelly is still up there]

The split starts off with two new tracks from Sam Russo. In case you missed out on Storm last year, fret not: you won’t be lost as Russo’s contributions to this split pick up right where his debut album left off. Sam Russo has a lot of sad stories to tell, and he tells them with nothing more than his acoustic guitar (okay, and sometimes some soft percussion and a second vocal track). “Small Town Shoes” immediately jumps into heartache: “You don’t mean nothing to me” is the very first line, and its followed closely by “She meant nothing to me”. His second track,“Crayfish Tales”, eases up on the sadness a little bit. A somber tune at the beginning, the song goes from dropping lines like “I can’t stand when I’m alone” and transitions to nostalgia: “I guess the fire in my soul just needed a poke, so you took the poker with both hands and you gave it a stoke.” In a few ways, Russo’s storytelling makes him a bit like a British Dan Andriano (or at least like Frank Turner if Frank Turner didn’t shout at much).

Side B kicks off with Kelly’s “Frangelico Houston”. Between the chord progression and it’s mentions of “boner pictures” and allusions to losing one’s soul behind a mini-van, “Frangelico Houston” is a classic Kelly composition through and through. It’s not hard to think that the track might have been a leftover from the Metropole writing sessions, although its slow tempo is more in line with what Kelly had to offer on I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever. “Pigs”, as you might have guessed, is an acoustic version of “These Pigs Seem to Be Getting the Best of Me”, which appeared earlier this year on The Lawrence Arms’ News From Yalta EP (or the digital deluxe versions of Metropole, I don’t know how you bought it). The track retains its catchiness even in stripped down form, but we’ve all kind of already knew that from when Kelly originally debuted the song roughly two years ago.

Combining Kelly’s raw, live-in-the-back-of-the-bar recordings, with Russo polished and layered Americana, these two artists have created a release that puts their individual talents in the spotlight, and complements their recent studio releases (Russo’s in particular, but that’s because Metropole wasn’t a Brendan Kelly acoustic album). The only major disappointment that comes from this release is that it’s a split EP, and not a split LP. Maybe that’s something to keep in mind for the future, fellas.

4 / 5

RIYL: Frank Turner, Anyone who has ever played on The Revival Tour, The Lawrence Arms (and related former bands and side projects, particularly those that Beex has participated in)

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