I had a weird thought during my spin of "Untry Love" from Metal Frames, the new album from Split Single, out Friday, November 18. My thought was, "This sounds a whole lot like 60FT Dolls but Jason Narducy isn't Welsh and damn few people are going to get that reference if I mention the band in my review of his new record." I'm not saying that the new long-player from the Superchunk (touring) bassist and Bob Mould band heavyweight is an ushering in of a new era of Britpop-inspired American indie but there's something resilient and direct about Narducy's brand of power-pop, something that very nearly echoes the sound of the tunes on the first 60FT Dolls album.
But, heck, lots of this also echoes the Foo Fighters too ("Perilous Pill", "Goodnight World") and quite a few moments that make a listener think of Cheap Trick ("Leave My Mind", "Blank Ribbons"). Now, I throw those reference points out there not to diminish what Narducy's accomplished on this fine, fine new record but, rather, to highlight how damn good this is. Invigorating and refreshingly un-ironic and uncomplicated, the music offered up throughout Metal Frames is some of the best indie rock an artist is likely to produce on these shores in this crazy year. On something like "White Smoke" the presence of Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster gives the song a whole lot more punch that it already has, the propulsive power-popper now turned into a near-punk workout thanks to those crashes and beats. Elsewhere, there's a near Jam-like bass-line worked out on "Still Invisible" and that bit of bounce is due to the magic fingers of John Stirratt of Wilco. The Wurster/Stirratt rhythm section here is a force of nature, to use an overused turn of phrase.
For all that talk of the power on this release, there's an amazing amount of melody too, Narducy's growl opening up the emotions behind the opener "Glori" and giving "Tried Goodbye" a more lyrical effect than material like this might otherwise have. At times he sounds like a young Rod Stewart when he sings and I almost hesitate to say that for fear of turning off any readers who don't get what I mean, who don't know the heft and punch of the best Faces releases that I'm thinking of at this moment. And, clearly, Narducy can make a listener think of the better years of Robin Zander too; the positively beautiful "Evaline Make Believe" is like Jason Falkner trying his best to pen a Cheap Trick near-ballad, while "Silences Mercy" is "The Flame" recast as a real indie ballad. By the time the early Oasis-echoing closer "Goodnight World" rolls around all too quickly, a listener can only wish that Narducy and Split Single were busy at work recording a follow-up to Metal Frames already. Fans of Chisel and Ted Leo, The Marvelous 3, Fountains of Wayne, Bob Mould, and all the other bands I've already referenced are going to love this album as much I do. Metal Frames by Split Single is easily one of the most listenable records of 2016 and there's not a single wasted chord or cymbal crash on this one. Jason Narducy and his band-mates have rewritten the book on how to make power-pop with this release.
[Photo: James Richard IV]