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II Review

by Mark Deming

Helsinki, Finland's the Splits went through a variety of personal crises after the release of their debut album, but rather than let their troubles tear the band apart, they used them to inform the sound and message of their second album, simply titled II. Heartbreak, betrayal, depression, homelessness, and the abrupt onset of adult responsibility are all part of the songs on II, but the Splits are about catharsis, not dwelling on the painful events of their past. Fittingly on this album, the group lay out streamlined and powerful old-school garage-influenced punk rock with a large portion of minor-key menace, lean but unrelenting rhythms, and guitar lines that at once reflect the steady pulse of the tunes and add a jagged complement to the efficient melodies. For someone who never sang with a band before joining the Splits, Helena's lead vocals pour out with a genuine authority and force, and along with guitarist Kiti, she's half of an effective, no-frills guitar-and-voice punk rock tag team, while bassist Maju and drummer Jussi hit hard without fuss or wasted energy. For all the very real fury of this music, the Splits have an impressive intelligence about when to strike and when to bide their time, and the thoughtful dynamics make a difference even when they're felt rather than heard. Thematically, II is an album about things going wrong, but the Splits have done a great job of explaining and re-creating the chaos of their lives, and II shows this is one band that absolutely knows how to get over in hard times.

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