It’s probably bad form to paraphrase Ferris Bueller when opening a music review but, you know, life does move pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. This here limited split 10″, on two small (great) DIY labels, features two bands found more often squirrelling away in corners being brilliant rather than megatouring or squatting magazine covers. One band’s from Bristol and one’s from Minneapolis, and this record’s gestation dates back to their joint tour in 2011. If you want a tenuous reason they’re tied together you could say they both make fantastic music out of unfettered naivety but who cares really? I like the idea of kindred spindly hands across the water, and in tough times, these songs will make you very happy.
But quietly, at least to start with. The Middle Ones use sparse instrumentation (acoustic guitar, accordion, a little shaky percussion) as the bones to hang Anna and Grace’s gentle, stumbling, tumbling vocals. They have kind of perfect complementary voices, wayward and unvarnished enough to creak the heartstrings, and they twist through Middle Ones songs brilliantly, meandering, repeating, imploring at glorious angles to each other. Songs like ‘The Mountain’ and ‘To Look Back’ play with silence, with almost shy beginnings wandering into delirious or sadly assured territory, the lyrics mining those bittersweet life moments you know are important even if the world says otherwise. Their excellent side of vinyl ends with ‘Yeah Roy!’, where a little gorgeously lilting accordian meets likewise vocals, lyrics (about bravery) that could look trite written down needle in your subconscious, the whole thing drifting away, light as a feather, dipped in honey. Call it twee if you like, but it’s the human heart on record, and even walking through Cardiff’s unlovely streets, through the hail and the traffic, these songs are there for you.
The last song on the Best Friends Forever side is a drunken recording of a random French dude trying to remember and sing an old folk standard. This spirit of dicking around blasts through the rest of the BFF vinyl half, four live versions of already released songs, and if, like me, you’d kill to see a band play music that’s like Tunabunny crossed with the Shaggs, you’ll be in some sort of heaven here. Riotously shonky blasts of guitar and bass fall over keeping-it-together drums, these in turn supporting great babbling twin vocals from Jessica and Briana, a never-ending tangle of wonky non-sequiturs and pickled bar talk. ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ takes it down a notch, a sideways take on the slinkier songs found on killer comp ‘Girls In The Garage’, but the rest is mangled rock and roll manna – hilarious and half-caught lines about losing all your limbs, becoming allergic to every food you love or mysterious shout outs to “STEVE on guitar, and JEFF on the bass”. There’s so much uncontained joy here. They are the opposite of blokes who can do ten minute guitar solos and you would very much like to have a beer with them.
And hey, they’ve actually split up now, so good luck with that. A drop in the raging ocean of music this record may be, but as vital document it splashes way above its weight, has more personality than most cities, and the world is a much warmer place for its existence.