Bounce a Soul for Pedigree
220 · 15 April 99
Kissing Book / Cherry Ice Cream Smile: Teen Club + Just Another Pop Song / Squeaky Clean + Amelia Earhart
Sleepy Township / The Cannanes: Kinder + S.T. Song + The Point / Price You Pay + Tennyson + Platypus
Ashtray Boy / Holiday: Holiday / Ashtray Boy
There are two short dramas that get played out repeatedly in my office at work. In the first one, somebody will walk in to ask me a question (to which I probably do not remember the answer, but the primarily qualification for being a software designer is being able to consistently make up the same answer to any given question), idly flip through the pile of CDs on my desk as they're talking, and then interrupt themselves to say, in a wearily accusative tone, though it's never quite clear who is supposed to be at fault, "I've never even heard of any of these bands." The second one, a morality play on the same theme, involves somebody having come by to ask my officemate, David, a question ("I don't remember", he says; this is why he is an engineer and I am not), and noticing, as they turn to leave, that I'm unpacking a large mailer filled with such suspiciously shaped objects that they exclaim, a little terrified, like some part of their subconscious already knows the answer, "What are those?!" I have a speaking part in this one, albeit not much to work with: "Singles." And then, when this produces no appreciable increase in comprehension: "Vinyl." The visitor then responds, and I have yet to see this scene require a cue card or a second take, "They still make those? Do they still make eight-tracks, too?" "No.", I say. Succinctly, but expressively.
Combine those two scenes (a cautionary diptych), and you get a composite calibration, however unscientific, of the depth of the obscurity in which you and I (if I may drag you along for company) find ourselves immersed. A Cambridge software company is probably an order of magnitude more aware of popular music than a similarly-sized sample of the general population, and my tastes aren't deliberately or exclusively obscure, but a random co-worker, picking up my day's random (in the statistical sense, at least) six or seven CDs, usually will not have heard of any of them. Asking them about the handful of seven-inch singles that just came in the mail, products in a medium they genuinely thought was extinct, is an exercise in futility. It's like asking subway commuters to name three leading daguerrotypers, or surveying the Senate to find out who's hot in entomology (or etymology, for that matter). How would they know? I'm the most diligent music fan most of the people I meet have ever met, and out of the thirty-two bands on this week's list, I'd only heard of five of them a year ago, only one of which (Low) would I have been able to discuss with any semblance of intelligence. The thing that put this most vividly in perspective, for me, for some reason, was reading on Darla Records' web site that they only press a thousand copies of each of their Little Darla Has a Treat for You samplers, and then not only finding one in the bin at Newbury Comics, that week, but going back the next week and seeing that after I bought the first copy, they got a second one. On the scale of musicians that normal, intelligent, aware Americans have heard of, one thousand copies constitutes round-off error; in the insular, self-sustaining world of indie pop, one thousand is enough to strew around so liberally that I can find two of them within a mile of my home. I feel a little self-conscious about even discussing music this obscure, like I'm describing an experience I can't possibly expect you to expend the effort (or extend the trust) to have, and I think part of the reason people say "I've never even heard of any of these bands" with that tone of voice, the same complaint about this column (even on the weeks when I didn't make the bands up) as about my daily listening pile, is that they believe, implicitly (although they might deny it if asked) that if any of this strange music was really any good, they would have heard of it. They imagine a meritocracy, and indeed, if you start from that postulate, knowing about obscure bands turns into a diminishing-returns hobby like memorizing the names of minor-league relief pitchers. Most people encounter so little truly thoughtful art that they never learn to recognize or appreciate it, which means that their tastes remain unsophisticated, which means, in turn, that artists who aspire to popularity must appeal to unsophisticated tastes. Thus we get more unsophisticated art, and the cycle perpetuates itself. Celine Dion and Sheryl Crow win Grammies, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar, vapid sitcoms win the TV ratings, and McDonald's can declare, with a straight face, that some glistening cardboard sticks to which the FDA won't allow them to apply the technical term "potato" are "America's Favorite Fries". I refuse to believe that most people's tastes are really this deplorable. Maybe I'm deluding myself, but if you took the average movie-goer, showed them the five nominees for the 1998 best-picture Oscar, and then showed them the nineteen films from last year that I thought were qualitatively better than anything nominated, I sincerely believe not only that they would agree with me on at least a handful, but that the experience would change their understanding of movies forever. Maybe I'm wrong, and they'd just revert to their stupor, but it doesn't matter, because it will never happen. It's far too hard to get enough of people's attention to even think about changing their lives. I might have enough readers to sell out a thousand-copy print run of something, if I managed to convince you all, but nobody but the publisher would even notice.
Logically the reverse prejudice, that anything popular must be awful, ought to be a fallacy as well, but the feedback dynamics of mass culture perturb the equation. Crass motives for popular art abound, but obscure art, made in full awareness of its commercial unviability, has to be driven by something else. That doesn't mean all obscure art is good, since there are always Dorothy L. Sayers' three forms of creative failure to contend with, no matter how pure the motives, but if you eliminate all the cynical art made to pander to the uninformed, you change the statistics just enough. Maybe Sturgeon's Law, applied to indie pop, only gets down to "eighty percent of everything is crap", but that's twice as much good stuff.
This week, then, as my tiny gesture of social upheaval, as show-and-tell curios from the exotic foreign lands quietly woven among us, in the hope that telling you about bands you've never even heard of is a service, not a conceit, I present an haphazard tour of the most obscure corner of the music world I've so far braved (I'm still afraid of flexis), the split single. As best I can tell, split singles are a phenomenon almost exclusive to indie pop, and in a way I think they're the genre's definitive product, the most perfect synthesis of the aesthetic drive to isolate the individual song and the practical instinct through which pop bands realize that they will survive only to the extent that they can knit themselves into the indie community. Split singles are indie pop's buddy system, its fledgling-label outreach program, its distribution vector and its reward for loyalty. I haven't tried to construct a diagram, but it sometimes feels, poring through discographies, that you could play Six Degrees of Separation with split-single appearances and link every soul in pop. If that's true, then it doesn't matter what order we proceed in, and since ambiguous pair-ordering renders even alphabetization arbitrary, let's try that.
We begin, therefore, with a split that is some combination of brand new and from 1994-5 (indie pop copyrights are often a bit nebulous), from the Royal Oak, Michigan label Third Gear, on which the bands Ashtray Boy (who fill their members-who-are-also-in-other-bands requirement with guitarist David Trumfio, also of the Pulsars) and Holiday (whose song Trumfio also produces, and whose members are probably in nine other bands, except they subscribe to indie credit-writing school that believes in listing your band's members by only their first names, so I can never tell who anybody is) each contribute a song about (or at least named after) the other one. This is a pretty flimsy premise, and one seemingly tailor-made for impenetrable in-joke novelty-disaster, but both bands have the discipline to produce real songs. "Holiday", despite some bubbly organ from Pulsars adjunct Mike Hagler and cartoonishly grim horror-movie verses, slips into a shaggily earnest pop chorus, and the wispy "Ashtray Boy" turns out to be a moody lullaby punctuated by flares of spaghetti-western twang. A ghoul and an aesthete attempt to lure each other into their opposed auras.
Beanpole / Holiday Flyer: Never Again + 120 Seconds / I Forgot + How Long Will It Be
Band overlap makes some split singles simpler to produce than others; Beanpole is a solo project by Verna Brock, who is also the third member, with brother and sister John and Katie Conley, of Holiday Flyer. Each entity contributes two songs to this lovely, translucent-blue, 33 1/3rpm disk from the episodic Florida label Papercut; how sad that a generation won't have the fun of hearing songs come on at the wrong speed, and flipping the switch in mid-refrain. Verna's "Never Again" is drumless, but builds up momentum on jangling guitar and an insidious vibraphone hook before a small multi-track chorus sighs into its breathy, buoyant counterpoint. "120 Seconds" is more elusive, its meandering near-unison vocal parts vaguely reminiscent of the Shaggs, although the pastoral guitar strumming of the accompaniment smoothes out the overall effect considerably, and the Shaggs wouldn't have recognized a "This Land Is Your Land" cadence if Pete Seeger had broken their noses with the back of his banjo. The Holiday Flyer side is prettier and quieter, like an American Everything but the Girl without EbtG's studio experience. Gentle guitar billows around John and Katie's plaintive harmonies on the dreamy "I Forgot", and someone adds a thin, twinkly piano to the tentative "How Long Will It Be", somewhere between Simon & Garfunkel and the Field Mice. I've listened to my three Holiday Flyer CDs a couple times each without them making much of an impression, but now I think I was just going too fast. I will try again.
Built to Spill / Marine Research: By the Way / Sick & Wrong
Instead of writing songs about each other, Built to Spill and Marine Research trade covers for this split, released in the US by indie pioneer K. Built to Spill, who I've found to be too drony and unfocused for my tastes on album, cover the snappy "By the Way", from Marine Research's previous incarnation as Heavenly, and the song's inertia seems to keep the band going where their own compositions usually lose me. I'm not sure this teaches me anything transferable to Keep It Like a Secret, the new Built to Spill album, but I'll leave it on my "undecided" pile a week longer, just in case. I haven't heard Built to Spill's original of "Sick & Wrong", and neither this nor the two Marine Research songs on their one other single tell me enough to explain how Marine Research and Heavenly will really differ, but the horns, slow bass growl and distant wood-chime cascades here are intriguing touches, the guitar slashes in the chorus are assurances that not everything has changed, and the breathy rap towards the end makes the song sound a little like the Spice Girls finally discovering the Au Pairs. I don't know how long the specter of Heavenly drummer Mathew Fletcher's suicide will hang over Marine Research, making them reluctant to try to recreate anything too like Heavenly's now-naive-sounding giddiness, and it's possible it won't ever leave, but this slower, denser arrangement suggests that there are other avenues they can profitably explore.
Kissing Book / Cherry Ice Cream Smile: Teen Club + Just Another Pop Song / Squeaky Clean + Amelia Earhart
Hand-assembly and low-tech design are standard indie-pop practice, but both are taken to an unnecessary extreme for this split on Magic Marker, which features a souvenir ice-cream tasting spoon with "Cherry Ice Cream Smile" stamped on it, a bunch of random scraps of paper with what ought to have been the credits on the back cover, another loose piece of paper with the typewritten addresses of everybody even tangentially involved in the making of the single, and then a hand-screened wrap-around sleeve that probably ought, if moonlighting Softies singer/guitarist Jen Sbragia valued her own time sensibly, to cost more than the whole single is sold for. In the interest of forging connections, one of the Kissing Book songs is a cover of something by a band called Glossary, who I've never heard of either, and both Kissing Book tracks were recorded by Chris Munsford, once of Incredible Force of Junior and now of Tullycraft. "Teen Club", with shambling, Jonathan Richman-esque drums, singing like Wolfie a few years older, and a poignant teen-misfit narrative, is classic indie-pop reticence, but "Just Another Pop Song", the cover, with the added confidence of somebody else's tune to play with, sounds more like the Sesame Street theme might if the kids in the cast performed it themselves. Cherry Ice Cream Smile's "Squeaky Clean" starts out with a distinctly Judy's-like bass/drum pulse, but then breaks the spell with snarls of that's-not-a-chord guitar and some distant, Juliana Hatfield-ish vocals. "Amelia Earhart", their second track, is even more out-of-balance, but when the instruments shut up, just as the refrain arrives, a delicate pop song flutters out of the clamor.
My Favorite / Mad Planets: Working Class Jacket / Yr Version of Cool
I've got a lot of holes still to fill in my Sarah Records collection, but Harriet Records was based here in Cambridge, and after some rather grubby afternoons in the back of dusty record stores I've managed to turn up all ten Harriet CDs and thirty-eight of the forty-five Harriet singles, including two of the three splits. My Favorite, whose scattered history is spread over a handful of singles and stray compilation appearances, are high on my list of reasons why spending all this time following faded trails is worthwhile, and "Working Class Jacket" is a solid demonstration, a truer and more introverted retelling of the story from Pretty in Pink ("Milk spills, and mothers run away", explains the opening line, as if the two phenomena are accidents of comparable inconsequence; "Tonight she'll wear his working class jacket over her prom dress / And dance as the pop star sings", goes the chorus, and Pretty in Pink would have been a different movie if Molly's character had shown up for the big showdown with one of her father's jackets over her shoulders, instead of the preposterous armless thing with the pink-nylon-net neck that we were supposed to be impressed that she made herself, especially if she then ignored all the boys to concentrate on the grace of the music), set to a charging duet accompaniment with roots in both Heavenly's pop-punk chirp and the kind of mid-Eighties New Wave with which John Hughes filled his soundtracks. Mad Planets' "Yr Version of Cool", on the other side, is spiky and pealing, like a stripped down Lush or a less-oblique Sleater-Kinney, and mounts the next argument, in series, after "Working Class Jacket", for when the singer on stage has gone past offering escape and started on his own agenda. "I'm tired of wanting what I don't have. / Fuck you for flaunting your version of cool", the chorus tells him, before tumbling into the deliberately underplayed but defiantly optimistic refrain "But it will happen in its own strange way". "Popsongs come when the peasants care", Tara Emelye points out, later on, just to make sure you don't misunderstand: stages and performers are dangerous, both to their audiences and themselves, but the music itself arises from our needs, and can never be bent to other purposes for long.
The Shapiros / Pencil Tin: Gone by Fall + She Said, He Said / How Teenage! + An Open Return
Bart, the omnipresent Australian, whose last name I don't even know, is in so many bands that I haven't a clue which ones to say he's from and which ones he's merely visiting. He appears on both sides of this Library Records split, playing in the Shapiros with Pam Berry, who was also in Glo-Worm and a dozen or two others, and in Pencil Tin with Bianca from the Sugargliders, who later became the Steinbecks. I'm guessing, based on nothing, that the Andrew credited with co-recording the Pencil Tin songs is the same guy who was in Blairmailer, the Ampersands and Cat's Miaow, and that Robert is Robert Cooper, also of the Sugargliders and the Steinbecks, and maybe I should have theories about Trish and Scott, too, but I don't. The trademarks of the extended family are breathy vocals, shimmery guitars, light, crisp drumming and a few well-chosen jazz chords. The Shapiros' "Gone by Fall" and "She Said, He Said" have a little less reverb than they might have had as a Sarah single, perhaps, and move with more purpose than Sugargliders songs often seemed to, but these are subtle distinctions. Pencil Tin's "How Teenage!" is weirder, with tinny drum-machine twitter, elegiac keyboard fills, calm acoustic-guitar cycles and some bizarre, bleating synth solos under a borderline-tuneless vocal. The brief "An Open Return" appears to use the same crappy drum-machine pattern, just slowed down a few beats-per-minute, but balances a spare bass-and-guitar interplay on it, and turns its unvarying twitch into a virtue.
Sleepy Township / The Cannanes: Kinder + S.T. Song + The Point / Price You Pay + Tennyson + Platypus
My favorite split single of this set, although split singles are an odd thing to have a favorite of, is this iridescent-green, three-each collection from Australian bands Sleepy Township and the Cannanes, on the Melbourne label Chapter Music. I don't know anything else about Sleepy Township, but their side is quick and propulsive, with clattering drums, bounding, New-Order-ish bass runs, ragged, cheaply-amplified guitars and straightforwardly artless vocals. A woman sings the galloping "Kinder", sounding a little like Rickie Lee Jones fronting Tullycraft covering the Icicle Works' "Understanding Jane"; "S.T. Song", the band's burbling theme, is closer to Tullycraft, sketching the singer's home town with a mixture of restlessness and affectionate nostalgia; and "The Point", the chaotic finale, takes a simple song and crushes it between cannoning drums processed to have virtually no attack, a vocal duet in which the male singer's voice sounds like it's coming from the next room, and enough tape hiss to require a staff of its own in the sheet music. I became an instant fan of the Cannanes, on the other hand, by halfway through my first of their albums, which happened to be Arty Barbecue, and the rest of their catalog now occupies the bulk of one of the medium-sized piles to my right on my desk, in various stages of assimilation. I like the Cannanes best, so far, when they intersperse their clear, engaging pop songs with bits of odd sonic experimentation, following the same basic template as Graeme Jefferies' band the Cakekitchen, but with much less noise in both modes. The most experimental piece of these three is the spasmodic "Platypus", drum machine, keyboards and voice racing along in only rough synchronization, like a double-speed, every-player-for-himself cover of an old Psychedelic Furs rant. "Tennyson", after a hesitant start, is the side's purest pop song, with mesmerizing guitar, thumping drums and an amiable folk melody. And "Price You Pay" strikes a compromise between the two, layering graceful singing over buzzing, insectival keyboards. I'm betraying my prejudice towards albums, I guess, by picking a hulking six-song EP out of a stack of trim two-song singles, but there's room for a lot of music on a seven-inch disk.
The Steinbecks / Buddha on the Moon: 2-Star Motel + How Near or How Far
The Steinbecks and Buddha on the Moon, in fact, could probably have fit all four of the songs on this of this Drive-In/Seasons co-released double-seven-inch split onto a single disk, but the format is part of the point: Each disk contains one of the two songs, done by one band on one side and one on the other. The airy, melancholy "2-Star Motel" is a Steinbecks song, from their album At Home & Abroad With the Steinbecks, and Buddha on the Moon thin it out into an brittle, eerie, Galaxie 500-ish hush, strung over upright bass, stiff marimba chords and steely acoustic guitar, before turning the ending into a My Bloody Valentine-style pitch-bend cacophony. Buddha on the Moon's stark original version of "How Near or How Far" is reverent, echoey, methodical and haunting, a gradual organ crescendo leading the way for another gust of guitar noise, through which a trebly keyboard steadily repeats its bright hook, apparently undaunted. For the first few bars of the Steinbecks' version it sounds like the song might defeat them, like their well-intentioned hand-claps are powerless to affect the song's pace, but in the end the guitars pitch in and get the song moving, and by one of the later bridges they are able to slip in an impish tambourine rustle without it seeming more than mildly out of place.
Tullycraft / Avocado Baby: She's Got the Beat / I Wanna Be Where the Girls Are + T.R.O.U.B.L.E.
"She's Got the Beat" is the Judy's song, not the Go-Go's one, and Tullycraft perform it in an effortlessly uncanny imitation of the original, due to the fact that they sound almost exactly like the Judy's even on their own songs. Avocado Baby, on the flipside, deliver a bracing, arhythmic recital of "I Wanna Be Where the Girls Are", as if the Waitresses were beat poets, and a lugubrious rendition of "T.R.O.U.B.L.E.", like a blues lament too depressed to even limp through the chord changes. I'm confident there's some sort of logic to this juxtaposition, but it eludes me. This points out one of the logistic virtues of split singles, which is that you can listen to one side, by itself, without any programming.
Tullycraft / Rizzo: Heroes & Villains / Rental Raccoon
The two songs on Tullycraft's split single for Harriet, shared with the drums/guitar/voice duo Rizzo, make a lot better sense together. Tullycraft cover the Pooh Sticks' "Heroes & Villains", in a gloriously messy live recording, with backing-vocal assistance by Jen Abercrombie. Abercrombie does double-duty as half of Rizzo, on the flipside, whose "Rental Raccoon", after a silly cheerleader intro, turns out to be a cheerfully disorganized buzzpop anthem, like the Softies mashed into Boyracer costumes, or vice versa.
Cub / Raggedy Ann / Tully Craft / Weakling: The Pilot
Tully Craft were still spelling their name as two words, back in 1995, when they turned up for the first release by Papercut Records, which combines the principle of the split single with the observation that you can fit four songs on a seven-inch, easy, if you play them at 33 1/3, to produce an even more tenuous hybrid, the seven-inch compilation. Cub's song, "Pillow Queen", is a trademark Cub sprint, like teddy bears having seizures, and I have, not for the first time, the impression that if the Shaggs had hit their productive years twenty-five or thirty years later, in the Northwest rather than the Northeast, this is the kind of band they might have formed. The drums, bass and guitar never quite get literally out of sync, but I think this is at least partially luck, and the guitar spasms and anti-chromatic chord changes have some of the same oblivious self-sufficiency around which the Shaggs' songs all coil. Raggedy Ann, whose "Soul Sound" shares side one, play a noisier variant, closer to the Jesus and Mary Chain or Curve, but sound like they're in much firmer control of what's going on, which somewhat diminishes the thrill. Tully Craft's "Pink Lemonade", on side two, is a prize worth starting a label around, Sean's rapid-fire delivery skittering across an erratic accompaniment that cuts in and out a few times like somebody is kicking the wire leading to the tape recorder, and wanders into and out of the lines of its measures on private errands. Weakling's comparatively mainstream rock finale "Roy to Me", becalmed somewhere between Bush and 54-40, is the set's one anomaly, but if I'm reading between the lines of the credits correctly, Weakling's singer and songwriter, Rob, is the guy who runs Papercut, and I'm not about to begrudge him a space on his own first single.
Belmondo / The Nonpareils / Incredible Force of Junior / Wimp Factor 14: The Airplane
The second Papercut compilation, The Airplane, opens with Belmondo, another of Pam Berry's many bands, playing a blurry version of Cole Porter's "Goldfish & Chardonnay". They manage to get through all four songs without officially involving Tullycraft, but Sean Tollefson (I think) plays drums on the Nonpareils' dark, angular "Inside", and anyway both Incredible Force of Junior and Wimp Factor 14 feature members who would later play in Tullycraft. IFoJ's track, "Freaks", less screechy than their usual selves, does a fairly good job of anticipating Hole's later attempt to make punk songs out of Fleetwood Mac flourishes. My one disappointment is Wimp Factor 14's buzzing cover of the Karl Hendricks Trio's desultory "Some Girls Like Cigarettes", which, without either Frank Boscoe's lyrics or the band's usual glum composure, could be anybody.
The Nonpareils: Engine EP
The Nonpareils' four-song EP Engine isn't a split single, but it's Papercut 003, and since I'm covering Papercut 001, 002, 004 and 005, it seemed petty to exclude it on a technicality. At this point in their evolution the Nonpareils resemble Wimp Factor 14 more than they do Tullycraft, with vocal lines that drop toward speech, and recursive, flowing guitar patterns that arrive in new keys circuitously, rather than careening from one to another. "And She Does" and "Hazel" seem a bit over-constrained, to me, or perhaps underdone, like the band was a little too afraid of losing the spirit of their four-track demos to actually finish them. "See-Saw" is even sketchier, but for some reason I like it better, Lisa's fragile vocal twisting into abrupt contortions whose awkwardness she seems charmingly unaware of. And "Engine", the closer, mostly just guitar and Ted and Lisa's minimal duet, hints at a path forward that might cross Willard Grant Conspiracy or Richard Buckner or Mark Eitzel's, somewhere up ahead, where the memory of pop melancholy starts to fade against the anticipation of country pathos.
Lois / Mad Planets / Low / The Receptionists: The Paper
Papercut 004 is back to compilation. Lois Maffeo's "A Summer Long" is a pretty, unassuming acoustic-guitar-and-voice ballad, blurring the line, as it seems to me her songs often do, between indie and folk. Most of Mad Planets' "Super 8" is much less aggressive than their song on the split with My Favorite, substituting backing-vocal ahhs and splashing cymbals for the earlier song's blasting guitars, although they do still squeeze in a noisy interlude toward the end. Low is a weird choice for a compilation, to me, as their songs never seem comfortable unless they're surrounded by other Low songs, or else the void of interstellar space, but "Lift" is as mercilessly minimal as anything they've done, and when "lift", "me" and "up", drifting so far from each other that telescopes are days behind, somehow resolve into a phrase, and an emotional entreaty at that, it's such a shock that I scarcely notice when the song ends and somebody else's begins. The Receptionists' mousy "Chills" is easy to miss, at that, barely longer than two minutes and, once you work out the implied punctuation, maybe only three real sentences before the fadeout. Placed back to back, though, Low and the Receptionists inform each other in a way the two bands' own records don't, the Receptionists' recorded-in-a-dorm-room informality emphasizing the resilient simplicity of Low's songs, and Low's epic stasis underlining the minimalist edge of the Receptionists'.
Beanpole / Nerdy Girl / b'ehl / The Seashell Sea: In and Out of Love
We run into Verna Brock again, nearly back where we started, on the other four-band compilation seven-inch in my pile, In and Out of Love, on the Anglophile Japanese label Motorway. Beanpole's "Things Turn Out Okay" finds her playing bass, guitar, some kind of recorder, and singing lead and harmony, and the recorder (flute?) pushes the song towards lounge-jazz professionalism while her unpolished vocal parts pull it back. She shares side one with Nerdy Girl, whose piquant "Horse" sounds to me like a cross between Heavenly and the Sundays. Side two adds an anxious "Compromise", by b'ehl, which reminds me of Disappear Fear with more instruments, and an ashen meditation called, literal-mindedly, "Midnight", by the Seashell Sea. It's hard for me to say I've learned much about these bands, from these brief exposures, accustomed as I am to wading through voluminous back catalogs to earn that right, but part of the point of these singles, I think, like a lecture on the gin-rummy hand-possibilities of art, is that there are other configurations of value beside lining up everything a single band ever did. Two songs, put together (or four, or six), when it's done out of love, not to sell movie soundtracks, can assert a virtual aesthetic that they represent, between them. I've learned things from these juxtapositions that playing pairs of songs together, myself, could never have told me. Split singles supply their own frames of reference, and so tell you what other people think the landscape of a genre looks like. You may not want to travel in the North they're all pointing, but if you don't at least know where it is, you can't pick a direction at all.