Kerouac and The Long Haul - Split EP
Split releases can often be a troublesome path for bands to tread. On the one hand there's the chance of gaining some exposure alongside acts of a mutual genres, and they're the perfect initiative to introduce fans to similar styles of music. However, in most cases there's always one band left trailing, while the other demonstrates the previous' shortcomings through their own superiority. Then there are the cases where the record is purely a thinly-veiled PR stunt, resulting in the failure of two bands' music to gel that ultimately leaves the listener a little confused.
Thankfully the latest split EP between Kerouac and The Long Haul falls into neither of these categories. Instead it serves to strengthen both bands' existing material and shows that their mutual hometown of Southampton is a burgeoning hotbed for the vastly improved south-coast hardcore scene that both these bands are imperative in nurturing and transforming.
Anyone who has witnessed either band live will know that their raw, primal shows are the stuff of intoxicating fervour. Engulfed in a mass of arms, growls and hair, both The Long Haul's Curtis Lightbown-Smith and Kerouac's Thom Denson are front men who are not afraid to get tangled up with their spectators, and the live incarnations of their songs are fitful and ferocious. Yet the two are also very different beasts, and when laid down as tracks it is the split's production, pulled together by The Long Haul's Lewis Johns, that binds the two segments of material together.
Beginning with 'Dead Soul/ Endless Drag' The Long Haul kick off the proceedings with what are their first non-demo recorded tracks. Despite the connection between the two bands and their music, there's no denying that the pair are cut from different cloth and have influences that both cross over and widely differ. Where The Long Haul's music tends to be more frenetic and fast-paced and have passages of music that contain quickened guitar solos, Kerouac tend to favour more of a slow-burning approach to their songs' starts. There are moments where The Long Haul slows the pace down slightly, yet these moments are punctuated by driving drum beats that prevent these instances from sounding soft.
Meanwhile guest female vocals from Casini Division's Lizzy Maries adds a touch of contrast to the record and brings in a sense of melody and varied tone to an otherwise singular style of scream that is exemplified through Lightbown-Smith's predominant vocal display. The guttural growls as Lightbown-Smith roars, "This dead end town/ These dead end streets/ This place is killing me," on 'The Passing Of Dreamers' signifies the end of The Long Haul's role on the split, and leaves its listeners in a state of temporary deflation at the empty, angst-filled sentiments that he expresses with such conviction.
Prolonged notes of guitar feedback on 'I Owe Some People The World, But I Owe You Shit' signals the switchover and the inevitable start of Kerouacâ's contribution. Although neither band on the split is superior to the other, in fact it is their differences that make the release so interesting, the fact that Kerouac already have a mini-album under their belts demonstrates their prior prominence on the record and in this way the release's tracklisting almost echoes that of an on-stage setup, with The Long Haul as the support before Kerouac step up.
Much of Kerouac's strength lies in their ability to insert the poetic into their lyrics and surround their songs with decipherable imagery, something that sets them apart from many of their hardcore counterparts. In this way Kerouac demonstrate a renewed lyrical progression from their debut release and the split also sees the band build on the layers of instrumentation that lies beneath Denson's groundwork.
This is by no means a split of two unequal halves, however the standout track has to be the final explosion of Kerouac's 'Porcelain' and Denson's echoing ending sentiments, "I live inside your heart and I'm there swimming through your veins but I'm filling up your eyes and I'm falling down your face/ I'm swimming through your veins but I'm falling down your face and I'm sorry." As these words are repeated over increasingly accelerated guitar work and driving beats, the split reaches its pinnacle to demonstrate the precise raw nature of their material and the stunning attention to detail across the entirety of the release: the production of which allows each individual instrument and voice to shine through and be discovered with renewed listens.
Despite the bands differences in style, technique, and on a certain level prior reputation, this split is no battle of the bands style showdown. There is no element of competition between the bands, rather an aura of support and respect where both bands serve to converge their influences and therefore their fanbases. At only 17-minutes long, what Kerouac and The Long Haul's split offers is a short slice of accessible hardcore music that highlights the genre in its current impressive incarnation, and with this in mind fans can eagerly await the release of the new split record between Kerouac and Pariso later this month.
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