What does it mean to call a band “punk” in 2016? What is conjured in our minds when we think of the punk scene and the music that soundtracks it? There has always been more to punk than screaming, safety pins, and dive bars. If you require a history lesson in the rich evolution of punk, look no further than DC’s own The Split Seconds’ LP, released back in July.
The band’s website states the group was formed in order to combine “the energy of late-70’s punk with undertones of 60’s pop and garage rock”. Never have I read a more accurate description of a band: the perfect encompassing of the basis of what we know today as punk rock, while still allowing the progression of writing and producing to put a new glossy coat of paint on it. Good musicians can borrow from their musical heroes. Great ones can utilize an understanding of the roots of their genres while offering something new to its future.
Right from the first track, “Center of Attention”, The Split Seconds lay the foundations of punk before you: the harmonies of 1960’s pop acts with Dick Dale-esque guitar riffs. This opening reminds us all that punk hasn’t always been about mosh pits and indistinguishable lyrics. A generation and a half ago, people actually used to dance at performances of bands like The Clash. As this record continues I found myself unconsciously dancing along to arguably pop-based rhythms, but with the core of punk at its heart.
Following along with their homage to the progression of punk’s history, vocalist Drew Champion’s voice allows you to follow the path from melodic to aggressive. Never altering his unique style so much that it appears an afront, Champion allows the music itself to influence his sound, and marries the two together exquisitely.
My favorite track is certainly “Come to Mary”, a song about a cheating guy who loves his girl but can’t seem to treat her right. The bass line, which is really at the forefront of this song, matched with a familiar lyrical content and strong vocal harmonies places the inception of this song somewhere in the mid-1990’s. It’s easy to taste the notes of ska-punk in the chord progressions, and could easily be the song that Letters to Cleo’s cover of “Cruel to Be Kind” responds to.
My concern for The Split Seconds is where they go from here. Whether it was intentional or not, this LP is an exercise in punk rock basics, and from it they can build anything. Perhaps the hugeness of possibility can potentially breed something wild and a far cry from the songs they’ve created so far. But if they are the punk rock historians they appear to be, The Split Seconds will continue to give us new lessons in the genre’s beloved and long-forgotten roots.