I’ve probably said this before for those 3 people who read all of my reviews, but I feel that the 7” is one of the hardest items to review. Not because they’re short, but because it takes a truly special 7” to jump from an 8 to a 10. It’s a hard format to nail, but it’s fairly easy to make an “above average” release with a single killer song. Matching it with a B-side, etc., is harder to come by.
This is a split EP. Each band contributes 2 songs and none sound like studio extras or A-side singles. It’s a representation of each group, carefully paired and sharing some sensibilities between the two.
Low Culture return after dropping Screens early last year. Opener “Reservations” plays to their strengths. Chris Mason’s vocals carry the melody with inflection in just the right spots while the tempo crashes between raspy garage-punk waves. The song is only 2:52 but has oh-so-many more movements. It’s pop-structured music the way it oughta be, with a big emotional Act III as a highlight. “Don’t Tell Me” is no throwaway either, jumping into a peppier energy with introspective, personal lyrics. While most 7”s are geared toward the single, hitting high on the first song, this second song trumps “Reservations.” Again, it’s a quick-and-over but it covers so much ground, both lyrically and musically, and even the “woo-ooo” backing vocals fail to hinder its payoff.
Needles//Pins take side B. On the heels of Shamebirds, they start out with “Hateful.” It starts with a Clash inspired guitar and jumps into chord work as the vocals take over. This is what the band does well—big guitars and distinct vocals—delivering punch via a DIY punk format with vocals that set it apart. The tone is first person and the lyrics showcase vulnerability, but the sound itself is striking and confident. Again, the standout of the side is the second song, “Bored.” This song is fist in the air rollicking rock, with catchy refrains that really hit their stride when he drops that “motherfucker” line. While the LP is inconsistent, Needles//Pins are well suited for the EP format.
The two bands pair together not just because of their Dirt Cult Record connection, but in that both play rough around the edges punk with a weary vulnerability. They wear those tones differently, with Low Culture more on their sleeves while Needles//Pins keeps it harsher and buried on the inside.
And that’s just what a split is about: finding common ground without exploiting with two soundalikes.
8.8 / 10
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