Perth based outfit Spilt Cities’ are bringing the goods with their full length album ‘Life, On Hold’. A fully realised body of work that is so tastefully executed that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re some old school shoegaze post-punk group you’re older sibling used to listen to in the 90’s. Sounds too good to be true, and yet..here I am telling you..this is incredible.
These gentlemen employ a great deal of reverb wash, noise and other ambient sounds to create very lush layers of soaring melodic rock. It instantly reminds me of ‘Weekend In the City’ era Bloc Party or even ‘And you will know us by the trail of the dead’. The way those artists can lock in a progression with the bass and drums together and then completely abandon it with the guitars reaching all sorts of ethereal textures is what I am hearing.
‘Life, On Hold’ is full of energy but the pace rarely steps above a safe mid-way groove. The band pull off the slow start, the build up and rock out approach with finesse and don’t take too long to get around it. I don’t mind a good slow burner mind you but when most tracks range between 2-5 minutes on the album it basically means you don’t have to wait ages before something cool happens. It’s not post-rock at all, just has a lot of throwbacks to older post-whatever artists like My Bloody Valentine, Appleseed Cast etc ect..without the wait times.
The abundance of variety in guitar sounds and tones is no doubt due to some expansive pedalboards in use to create these textures. Special mention must be given to the hardwork behind the desk to create such a rich tapestry of sound. Mixed and produced by Andy Lawson this is a really great sounding album. Drums are crisp and full sounding, never dominating the mix and leaving a suitable amount of low end for the bass guitar to sit nicely in the pocket without being muddied. Both players get their chance to do some nifty tricks but this album, really..is all about huge guitars and massive vocal hooks.
So while the chords are big and the rhythm section carries all the progressions well, what really helps it all shine is the frequent changes and dynamic shifts that occur in nearly every song. It’s like they’ve said..yeh okay we did that trick in the last verse, what else could we do?’ …and to be quite honest this approach (totally imagined mind you) is utterly fantastic. You won’t get bored easily and it is safe to say there’s seldom a moment which doesn’t feel like it is meant to sound that way.
Song writing game is on point, there is deep lyrical content to study and swim through. Shaun’s vocals are unashamedly aussie sounding and I actually love the WA accent. (*Don’t pretend there isn’t one, there totally is..) Choruses to yell and sing along to, melodies that hook you instantly and others than slowly burn into memory and haunt you for hours later. This is gold.
Take the opening lines of ‘Ephemeral’s tag line for example: ‘Where were you? We looked for several hours” That’s got legs to stick in your head and run for ages. It will.
The album is literally littered with highlights and emotional highs, lows and epic rock passages. Wait till the hook of ‘Keep Quiet’ gets in your head as Shaun’s ‘I’ll just keep my mouth shut til I’ve got something to say’ is yelled and sung. Killer melody is killer.
Another massive highlight comes on track #6 ‘Lovers’. The song nearly closes up shop at the 3 minute mark and then the bass begins some chords very softy strumming a progression and bit-by-bit the band re-enter the fray with layers and layers of parts. The build up to the crescendo is full of feeling and emotion. Such a great choice by the band (or producer?) to take that unexpected detour.
Overall…I am keeping this one on the iPod when I’d usually delete stuff after I’ve reviewed it to make room for new music. Nope, this ones staying. It’s so good.
Personally, this is one of my fav releases this year.
Please go listen to it! Its available for streaming, download and purchase as a 12” vinyl bundle from the bands bandcamp page.
*featured image credit > Taylor Edwards, check out his work here: