The Energy, Get Split
Right from the faux-crowd noise intro of “Live in Ruin,” The Energy seem determined to live up to their name, in a big way — they literally barely stop for a breath throughout the rest of second full-length Get Split. The band operates less like an actual band and more like a drag racer burning down the track, jamming the pedal to the floor and never once even contemplating lifting their collective foot off.
At the same time, though, I find myself surprised at how clean and non-raw this sounds — it’s got enough distortion and grime that it works, sure, but not nearly as much as I’d figured I’d be hearing after seeing/hearing these guys live. The Energy roars through nine tracks of snarling, fist-pumping garage-y punk that’s simultaneously up-front all the way and filtered through an indie-rock sense of subtlety.
The music on Get Split definitely feels like a throwback to the Days of Punk Rock Past, with frontman Arthur Bates’ unassuming, average-dude vocals bringing to mind the Dez Cadena incarnation of Black Flag or Iggy’s Stooges more than anything else, at least to me. It’s punk without pretense or fashion, just fast, dark, wall-punching chunks of disillusioned, fuck-it-all rawk, fused to a thundering, galloping rhythm section and lyrics about being infested with roaches (“Roach Spray”), trying to hook up with cross-eyed girls (“Cross-Eyed”), and generally having no future (“Live in Ruin”). Oh, and those lyrics are delivered by a guy who looks weirdly like Stu from The Hangover.
And for all that, it’s subversively smart, in the same way that, say, the Ramones were smarter than even their fans ever gave ‘em credit for being. Check nine(!)-minute closing track “Wastin’ Tape” for proof of that — while most of Get Split is comprised of short, jagged, to-the-point songs, Bates & co. stretch out on “Tape,” going slower and sludgier before dissolving into a droney hum and bassline before stepping back into scraping, wall-punching rock with seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics. It’s a jammy, wide-open track, more indebted to vintage psych-rock than any punk icons you can name, and it demonstrates that these guys really aren’t what you think they are.
Then there’s album highlight “Part-Bitch,” with its weird, skronking, sci-fi-sounding keys, not to mention the driving, head-snapping rhythm, the fiery blaze of “Mini-Blinds,” which is so short it’s over almost before it’s begun, and “Thinking Cameras,” with its paranoiac pseudo-indictment of Big Brother-like camera surveilance. Put it all together, and Get Split reveals itself as a sweaty, gleefully murky middle finger to the whole cookie-cutter punk scene.