Have you ever been, say, at a barbecue — the weather is nice, all the bro-heems are lounging, So and So brought all the extra beer he had left over from that thing last weekend that he thought was going to be huge but didn’t really go ever that well — and its just a good vibe all around? And you, my little buddy, you’re just fucking going for it; you’re gonna grab this day by its fucking nards and you’re not going to let go. This is your time — you’re manning the grill, you’re flipping shit like a pizzeria guy in a movie, you see your moment and — BAM! You are fucking in it. Before anyone knows what’s what, you’ve taken the spatula and just beaten a hot dog and hamburger into submission: you’re a mad scientist, you’re seized by the moment, you’re mating them like a dog breeder. And all the bros have wandered over, they’re cheering you on but you don’t even know, ’cause you — you, my friend — are in the fucking zone. The girls are “oohing” and “aahing,” and before you know it you’ve gone ahead and done it: It’s a fucking ham dog, dude. Ham fucking dog.
God, that was the best Memorial Day ever. It’s something that should’ve been obvious all along; hot dogs and hamburgers finally just got the push they needed to get together. Crank! is the grill master on this split, a long-time-coming collaboration between two Omaha sweethearts: Bright Eyes and Neva Dinova — or more properly, Conor Oberst and Jake Bellows. The upside to combining two really like-minded musicians or meat products is that it isn’t really as much of a distinct break.
One Jug of Wine isn’t a split between two bands as much as it is a collaborative effort. And that makes sense because according to the press release I lost (threw out), they both worked on every song or something like that — they just alternated vocals or something? I don’t know. But as such, it’s a “split” that actually makes sense: it feels like the sum is greater than its parts, which I think is more than can be said of most splits, comps, mixes.
The downside is there isn’t much as far as surprises go. It’s meat. There’s the obvious indie-folk/country-tinged thing going on. And with only six songs on the record, there isn’t much room for experimentation. “I’ll Be Your Friend” picks things up for a few minutes in the middle — the Oberst-fronted track, arguably the most memorable on the album, has a bit more of a bouncy, upbeat feel, whereas the other five tracks plod along Midwest style.
Interestingly enough, this release also marks Oberst’s first lyrical exploration of the New York City streets, as opposed to the Nebraska basements; it’s an interesting juxtaposition considering the pacing of the songs. These songs are not Bright Eyes’ best work, but they’re certainly not the bands’ worst either; similarly, the Neva Dinova tracks haven’t made me sprint out to my local record store to buy up their back catalogue, but my interest has certainly been piqued. On the whole, though, which is how this particular split should be judged, these six songs are a testament to the power of collaboration.