Human Movement is a triumph of the split format.
Some things just don’t go well together. It’s hard to say whether the first instance of a split record was due to budgetary concerns, strategic ones or some sort of punishment. If you want to enjoy band A, you’re going to have to suffer through band B as well. Let’s propose a more positive scenario for Fat Wreck Chords’ split LP between New Orleans’ Pears and Milwaukee’s Direct Hit!, two up and coming punk bands which toured together and discovered they had chemistry as musicians and sounds that complemented each other. It matters little how well they get along as peers. But for listeners, the result is an album that divides 12 tracks between two blisteringly fast punk acts who both have a reputation for pushing genre boundaries into hardcore and, particularly with Direct Hit!, into pop punk.
It works, and it works well. Direct Hit! kicks off with the relentless and abrasive “You Got What You Asked For”. Nick Woods’ vocals scrape the paint off the walls for 61 seconds as if to simply announce that this record is serious business. Just then the super catchy and pop-melody rich “Blood on Your Tongue” takes over completely with an unexpected keyboard riff.
Regardless of the rich and varied dynamics of Direct Hit!’s performance across six tracks, the screaming howl is omnipresent. One of the signatures of the band seems to have become fast blast punk with accompanied by occasional backing guttural screams.
Pears are arguably the less well-known of the two, but with tracks like “Arduous Angel,” one of the strongest on the record, those days are over. This LP is a game-changer for both bands and launching into their half with the schizophrenic “Hey There, Begonia” manages to stuff several different pattern changes into just two minutes. Sometimes it’s a hardcore song, sometimes it’s melodic punk, and it’s hard to call the chorus a chorus when it never really comes back around. The last few seconds sound like something more akin to Exploited than Green Day.
There’s a less friendly, slightly darker aspect to Pears’ contribution. Where Direct Hit! could be mistaken for doing what they do with a healthy sense of irony, Pears appear to be the real deal. “Arduous Angel” allows them to fit in and it’s not surprising that this paired up with Direct Hit!’s most poppy “Blood on Your Tongue” for the first two singles, launched as a unique, incomprehensible split video. “The World is Ending” is also surprisingly melodic and could have easily been a contender.
Both bands get a chance to pay its respects by covering the other. Direct Hit! bangs out a suitably rage-filled Pears track called “Nothing” and Pears return the favor by brow-beating their own aggro-pop sensibilities onto Direct Hit!’s “Never Now”.
Human Movement is a triumph of the split format. Far from being simply a vehicle for one band to prop up another, it’s a showcase for both.