So Cow / Squarehead, “Out of Season” split LP

cover-squarehead-so-cowWhen I went to NYC for CMJ a couple weeks back, I was excited to see a bunch of bands because — well, it’s fucking CMJ. Most of the Lower East Side clubs become beacons for badge-wearing college students and industry flack, all trying to find the hottest, hippest sounds. Personally, I take trips to conferences like CMJ and SXSW as a way to see acts I’m desperately in love with, yet have minimal faith in ever seeing live within a reasonable drive of my home.

One of the bands I went to see was one that had toured through Lawrence last year as opener for Ted Leo: Dublin’s So Cow. I went to see them play as part of a NME showcase in the basement of the Cake Shop. Brian Kelly and his drummer were touring without their bass player, Jonny White, who was not able to make it across the Atlantic due to family issues. They were fantastic, and even without bass (aside from occasional guests), songs like “I Hardly Know You” and “Barry Richardson” were stellar.

However, it was their fellow Dubliners Squarehead that really grabbed me. The moment they took the stage, it was one of those “hey, what’s this?” moments. Their sound is gruffly catchy, with singer Roy Duffy’s voice tearing through the simple guitar/bass/drums sound in a way that grabs your attention immediately. Referring to them as a punk band doesn’t work, nor does garage, nor indie. Quite simply, it’s easiest to call Squarehead a rock ‘n’ roll trio, because that’s the least constrictive appelation under which you can place them.

Their work on the upcoming split with So Cow, entitled Out of Season, is quite possibly one of the few valid reasons for the split LP to exist. Whereas most splits are an excuse to clear the closet of unreleased b-sides and throwaway dross from previous recording sessions, both Squarehead and So Cow bring their newest to bear on this record. The two bands have committed what is, essentially, their current live sets to vinyl for this record.

It’s fresh and crisp and representative of the fact that these two acts started out as solo projects from writers who are simply prolific on a scale not frequently seen. So Cow and Squarehead (but especially Sow Cow) turn out singles, online colelctions, and the like year-in and year-out, having created impressive discographies in the few short years in which they’ve been in existence.

As prolific as these artists are, it’s completely understandable that their sets are going to change regularly, with the bands being most excited about what they’ve produced most recently. You can hear that excitement and exuberance from both sides. Squarehead’s “More Quickly” has rapidly become one of my favorite songs of the year, with Duffy’s lyrics as potent as the fuzzed-out bass and guitars: “Far too young to have seen so much/ Take my hand/ I’m family man/ Jesus Christ in a wedding band” is punctuated at the end by a series of drum fills that leaves you feeling breathless and excited for more. No wonder it’s their current set opener.

“Ruane Vs The A-Bomb,” from So Cow’s side is this strange bit of garage-punk energy in the midst of their sweet, simple pop. “I Hardly Know You” (which you can hear at Spin right now) is similar to “More Quickly,” rooted as it is with a mesmerizing bassline, but whereas Squarehead’s first track is all shredding guitars and vocals over a motorik-type beat, So Cow opts for a bouncing gem.

The split is due out later this month from Inflated Records. You can pre-order it from the Inflated Records store for $12.98, which you should. The first song on each side is worth owning alone, and the rest of it just makes for icing on the cake — or, considering that the icing is the best part, the ice cream on top of the icing on the cake.