For better or worse, split releases are a staple in the punk and related subgenre circles. In the past I’ve been a tad critical of them, if only for the times when a band lazily takes an already released recording and throws it onto a split EP that could have benefitted from some exclusive tracks. Split LPs, however, are a different breed. It’s a fun experiment for two bands to come together to work on releasing a full album, utilizing their respective sounds to complement each other to create a cohesive piece of work. Earlier this year, Topshelf Records put out It’s Always Nice to See You, a split LP that showcases two big players in the modern indie-influenced emo scene: the (kinda) recently reunited Kind of Like Spitting and the upcoming “new age emo” act Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers.
It’s Always Nice to See You marks not only the first new recordings from Kind of Like Spitting in almost a decade, but also the debut studio recording of the band’s current line up. Starting with the acoustic and out-of-key “Parasite Song 1”, Kind of Like Spitting sets up a false tone for their half, because they quickly dive into an all out fuzzy assault, reminiscent of the Sub Pop / Merge sound that drives the next few songs. It’s a bit unexpected for anyone only familiar with Kind of Like Spitting’s lo-fi, acoustic output, but the sound fits them well. Despite bookending their half of the album with “Parasite Song 2”, Kind of Like Spitting go for a victory lap with a cover of Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?”. It doesn’t add a whole lot to their repertoire, but it’s still a lot of fun. Think of it as the hidden or bonus track to KOLS’s half.
On the other half of the album, Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers bring a softer offering, but only softer in that their amps aren’t cranked up to sound like something J. Mascis got his hands all over. Much like on the band’s previous split EP with Mikey Erg, Warren Franklin and his crew crank out sweet, power pop jams about falling in and out of love. The full band approach is still something relatively new for the Founding Fathers, but they’re growing into their sound comfortably. The biggest disappointment with the second half of the record is that it doesn’t also end with an Elvis Costello cover.
Split LPs can be a bit of a gamble sometimes, particularly when the bands sound nothing alike. Fortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to It’s Always Nice to See You. Kind of Like Spitting brings their A-game and bust out plenty of rockin’ moments, and it’s a welcome return to the studio recorded world. Meanwhile Warren Franklin & The Founding Fathers hold their ground and prove that they’re on the right track. (Although if I had to assign a letter grade, it’s more like a B+-game compared to KOLS).
4 / 5 – Listen below!
RIYL: Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral