BY FRED MILLS
“I got a truckload o’ soul/ Keeps me coming ‘round/ I never do what I’m told/ I’m comin’ to your town…. Now hear this!” So announces Michael Giblin, presider/majordomo/Foghorn Leghorn of garage-rock supah-group Split Squad, in the band’s titular manifesto opening track, a riotous and righteous blast of Clash, Who, Plimsouls and so many other great bands worth namechecking as it spins that you’ll be exhausted before the honor roll even has a chance to step up.
Giblin (Parallax Project) is joined by the Fleshtones’ Keith Streng (who is, er, steppin’ up, above, caught in action during the Split Squad’s set at BLURT’s SXSW day party this past March) and the (speaking of which) Plimsouls’ Eddie Munoz on guitars, Blondie’s Clem Burke on skins and the needs-no-intro-if-you-are-a-Red Sox-fan-Josh Kantor on keys. (Kantor is also a member of the Baseball Project, which features Minus 5/R.E.M. dude Scott McCaughey, who also produced and played on Now Hear This… . Peter Buck guests on a tune, as do the Figgs’ Mike Gent and Gang of Four’s Hugo Burnham, so you could call it an “incestuous supergroup” or something like that, particularly if you factor in some of the ancillary recording credits on the project, like David Minehan, Andy Shernoff, Adam Selzer and Kurt Bloch… yeah, the record is an ‘80s college rocker’s dream date.)
The ensemble don’t waste a sec on formalities during Now Hear This…, making the most of said manifesto. Whether thumping through a bad-girl-gone-badder anthem like the Gary Glitter-esque “She Is Everything,” hoisting a torch for a girl-just-gone in the torch song “I Can’t Remember,” circling around Happy Jack-era Who in the psychedelic Giblin-McCaughey composition “Superman Says” or even reinventing the Small Faces’ (by way of Brit songwriter Kenny Lynch) classic Brit-beat anthem about a way-gone-girl “Sorry She’s Mine,” these kids are alright, particularly if you are a fan of mid ‘60s pop—with power!
Want more proof? You even get an ace/obscure Terry Reid cover (“Tinker Taylor,” (which, um, somehow got misspelled on the sleeve along lines of the similarly named Yardbirds tune “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor”), quite a raveup at that, plus a vintage soul nugget, “You’ll Never Change,” which has also been done by the Detroit Cobras and Bettye LaVette, but never quite so convincingly as now. And the hands-down, stone-classic track is Giblin’s own “Feel the Same About You,” which takes everything you ever loved about late ‘70s power pop—air guitar-worthy riffing, relentless kit thumping, a memorable and insistent melody, singalong choruses, and that timeless feeling that you should just be jumping up and down in front of the band until the girl of your dreams comes up and joins you on the dance floor—and distills it all into the perfect 2:59 “plug side” of a black wax 45.
Not a group to be trifled with, unless you have a coupla cases of beer to spare, the Split Squad is—full disclosure—in the BLURT Top Ten of Our Favorite Bands ‘cos they have absolutely slayed the attendees at our annual SXSW day party in Austin at the Ginger Man Pub for the past two years. The group’s main website and Facebook photo, in fact, was taken by superfan and ace shutterbug John Boydston at the BLURT bash last year (see below). So we are justifiably proud to call ‘em part of the home team. Boy howdy.
DOWNLOAD: “Sorry She’s Mine,” “Feel The Same About You,” “Now Hear This”