Darlington/The Huntingtons

Maybe the biggest -- or only -- surprise about the latest disc from Chris Darlington (a.k.a. Christy Brigitte), Steve Visneau, and a bassist to be named later is that the group was still around to record it. Since changing its name from Mess, Darlington has seemed to be perpetually on the verge of breaking up, letting months go by without any shows, spending most of its time hunting down replacement bass players (Todd Pertell fills in on Split, but he's only a temp) and the long-rumored second guitarist, even moving to New York for a few months. The fact that Chris and Steve have held it together this long is almost enough to give Split the thumbs-up by itself. Almost, that is, unless you've grown tired of the dynamic duo's ability to make entire albums out of one song. They even admitted as much of 1998's Girltroversy, their last disc of new material, confessing, "This song sounds just like the last one, and the next one, and the one after that one." At least they're not trying to fool anyone.

Living up to its title, the first half of Split belongs to Baltimore's The Huntingtons, who cover Darlington's "Judy Jetson" during their eight-song set. (Darlington later returns the favor, covering The Huntingtons' "Jackie Is an Atheist" to close out the album.) Most of Darlington's half of the album is a blur of random pop-culture references, kicking off with "Donna A.," which pays tribute to The Donnas' lead singer by using little else apart from Donnas song titles for lyrics. Along the way, the group also gives lyrical shout-outs to Chixdiggit, the Mr. T Experience, Blue Hawaii, Kate Moss, Oliver Peck at Elm Street Tattoo, Speed Racer, and Dexter's Laboratory, among others. Occasionally, it's like listening to a 13-year-old Dennis Miller, except without, you know, the jokes.

Of course, the poppy, punky songs Darlington plays don't really require weighty lyrics. In fact, it's better if there aren't any: The angry "Jenna O.D.'d Last Week" sounds especially out of place here, with its "Jenna's dead and no one really seems to give a shit" kiss-off. After all, the rest of the songs on the album are about: Chris' (Christy? Brigitte?) crush on one of the Donnas ("Donna A."); Chris' crush on a girl named "Karen Elson"; Chris' crush on a girl named "Theo"; Chris' crush on a girl named Trish ("Stonehill U."); Chris' crush on two surprisingly unnamed girls ("Density" and "Alleged"); and a beach party at his apartment ("Pogo Beach"). A song about a girl shooting up too much smack sticks out a bit when it's surrounded by lyrics such as, "I just wanna make out, paint my fingernails glitter, and kissy kiss smoochy smooch," or "Super sugarpops / Karen Elson I just wanna park with you." Then again, anything would sound serious if it followed the phrase "kissy kiss smoochy smooch."


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