Nobody does dirt rock quite like The Glasspack. For over a decade, the Louisville, Kentucky, outfit — under the leadership of appropriately-monikered guitarist/vocalist “Dirty” Dave Johnson – have been inflicting eardrums with their pounding blues rock, and on their latest release, they pair up with fellow sluggers Trophy Wives for a split 7” on Noise Pollution Records that turns out to be a whole lot more than just that. Well, not in terms of the vinyl or anything, but if you buy the record, you get the download code for a boatload of bonus cuts that brings the release to over an hour in length, with 15 tracks instead of two. Basically, you can have two completely different listening experiences for the split, whether you just want to check in on new studio material from both bands, or explore deeper into live songs from The Glasspack and older recordings from Trophy Wives. Both certainly have their appeal, and though the bands sound different, their common locale and bullshit-free sensibility binds them, and the 7” winds up making an odd kind of sense.
Perhaps that best suits The Glasspack, who present no fewer than three different lineups on their nine contributions, leading off with the instrumental 7” track “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…” and showing their penchant both for giving Johnson space to rip solos and drummer Brett Holsclaw’s rhythmic drive. Taken on its own, the song stands up to anything The Glasspack has released on their several killer albums, Bridgeburner or American Exhaust coming to mind, and for fans of no-frills motor rock, I don’t see how “If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…” could miss. They follow it in the download material with a cover of Bobby Rush’s “Mary Jane,” then move onto their live set from the 2008 Roadburn festival in The Netherlands, which easily could have been released on its own (as so many others have done). It’s hard to decide whether the weedy groove of “Mary Jane” tops the later extended, drawling live jams contained in “Jim Beam” or the shuffle boogie of “Louisiana Strawberry,” but I like not knowing for sure, and looking at it for the bonus material it is, I’m less inclined to expect an album flow as the Roadburn set gives way in turn to the more crudely recorded “Lot Lizard” from a 2009 Noise Pollution release party. Johnson’s vocals, throaty, Delta blues-styled, are suited to the rough treatment their given on the tape, and “Lot Lizard” proves to be just the last of several formidable grooves The Glasspack bring to the table on their 43 minutes of the split.
That leaves Trophy Wives with just under 20 minutes to fill out, but they make the most of their time nonetheless. The three- (now four-) piece, which features former members of Lords, Breather Resist and Coliseum, get right to the point with “Firecracker,” their leadoff cut. Rife with the frenetic hardcore punk energy the Midwest has been shouting into the ether for over 20 years, the song nonetheless has a grown-up feel and capitalizes in its late section on the tension the early moments create. Guitarist/vocalist Billy Bisig has a clean but still edgy delivery, and bassist Tony Ash and drummer Geoff Paton do well keeping the groove central. Elliott Turton, who has apparently since joined as a full-member on second guitar, helps Trophy Wives pay homage to early ‘90s Louisville outfit Crain on a cover of “UFO Song.” From there, “Black Hole in a Paper Heart” (which I want so badly to be a grunge parody that I’m going to call it one anyway) takes hold and introduces Trophy Wives’ April 2008 studio recordings, presumably their first as the band had been together less than a year at the time. Fans of the recent wave of Jesus Lizard-inspired heavy post-noise will want to pay attention to “Dope and Baby Dolls,” and the jagged roots of the personnel shine through on both “Everybody” and “Hoax,” though Trophy Wives combine an element of groove that’s all but absent in the sharp-cornered, technically-focused noise of today. Like I said, grown up.
For the whopping five bucks Noise Pollution is charging for the thing, and for the barrage of extras, I’m not going to hesitate to call the split a decent investment for anyone looking for either a blues rock or noise fix. That said, The Glasspack and Trophy Wives do make for strange bedfellows, but at a certain volume, distortion is distortion, and I don’t doubt that if I was lucky enough to end up in Louisville on a night they were playing together, I’d more likely be talking afterwards about how I just got my ass kicked than I would about the curious mix of bands. They might not sound alike, but they’re obviously coming from a similar mindset to what they do, and on that level, there’s continuity to this split whether you’re listening to two tracks or the full 15, and either way you take it, each act on board for the release proves more than worthy of the attention they seem to be demanding. Hometown heroes doing Louisville proud.Kentucky, Louisville, Noise Pollution Records, The Glasspack, Trophy Wives