Splits are an underrated release. Too often they get lumped in as inessential marketing tools, rather than legitimate installments in two band’s sagas. They’re overshadowed by full-lengths, but make no mistake, a good split has the potential to go down as a classic. Think of the iconic Faith/Void release from Dischord, or all of those amazing BYO Records releases (especially the Leatherface/ Hot Water Music one)– there’s a rich history in regards to the punk rock split and it offers a unique experience. This is the place where bands can try new things and experiment, and maybe that’s just because of the nature of the split, but the truth is: sometimes it’s easiest to be weird when you think no one’s looking.
Human Movement is split between pop punk darlings Direct Hit! and nouveau-skate animals Pears. Their common language is hardcore and choruses– the former that encroaches on Direct Hit!’s sugary concept albums, and the latter that punctuates Zach Quinn’s machine-gun bursts of syllables. Together, they bring together both and play off each others strengths, making Human Movement one of those rare splits that can follow the conversation between Green Star and Brainless God.
Direct Hit! opens Human Movement with the hardcore banger “You Got What You Asked For.” While Direct Hit! has always been adept at the genre, usually throwing one or two screamers in per album, here they deliver on the intensity– with quick stabs of guitar, high tempo drums, and pissed-to-hell vocals. Immediately proceeding, in a moment of minor perfection, they switch gears into the opening of the next song, “Blood on Your Tongue,” with sugary sweet bell synth and pop punk melodies. It’s one of those tangible moments on the Direct Hit! side of Human Movement where you can see the fun the bands are having, and as the record spins, it becomes infectious– from the big melodies of “Open Your Mind,” the new classic “Shifting the Blame,” and their cover of Pears’ “You’re Boring.”
The latter deserves special attention, as one of the best parts of any split is hearing the bands cover each other songs. Direct Hit! attacks “You’re Boring” with so much gusto, you’d swear they were trying to claim it for their own. It stays pretty close to the original, with the biggest difference being some extra pop punk zeal on the chorus. To close out their side of the split, Direct Hit! strike straight hardcore again with “Nothing,” a fast shout-along track with an intense and dreamy bridge.
Pears open their half with “Hey There, Begonia.” It’s on the catchier side of their core sound, with the same fast moving riffs you’d expect and an interpolation of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey.” Again, Human Movement is about bands having fun, and they work it into the bones of their music.
“Mollusk’s Mouth” is a faster song with a lighting fast harmonized lyric section that caught my ear. It alludes to one of the best things about Pears– their creativity and ambition in punk rock is so often realized through the collective talent of their members. These guys can play, they can sing, and they can write songs like no other. Riffs fly, vocal rhythms change from hardcore spitting to soaring melodies, but it never leaves the realm of adult playtime. In “Misery Conquers the World” they incorporate “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” with a chorus of children booing. Pears is the sound of goofing off.
Pears cover Direct Hit!’s “The World Is Ending” off Brainless God— well, kinda. What they do is actually a lot cooler. They meld in “Buried Alive,” the other hit from Brainless God as well as Masked Intruder’s “Heart-Shaped Guitar.” It’s surprising, weird, and hilarious, and shows Pears in all their glory– showing off and having a little fun. “Never Now” opens with some heavy-ass dissonance before transforming into the sort of thing the band is primarily known for: fast flying lyrics and a singalong chorus. It differentiates itself with the chugging breakdown, showing Pears once again swallowing up more genre influences like a fat and hungry punk rock anaconda.
Human Movement is the sort of the split you want to see released. How often do you get two high profile bands doing this sort of thing anymore? Not very often. Both Pears and Direct Hit! represent the finest of a certain kind of modern punk, established acts who continue to take risks and try and make their music as interesting as possible, all while playing in the chords and melody sandbox. Human Movement is a testament to catchy-punk devotees, a monument to all the wonderful things you can do with rhythm, melody, and words. But, it is also fun, plain and simple. Pears and Direct Hit! play well together, but when they compete, they both win.