MANHATTAN, NY—It is 1980 again, or maybe even 1965, thanks to The Split Squad, a new band comprised of old wave pop veterans. Singer/bassist Michael Giblin of Cherry Twister and Parallax Project began assembling like-minded friends in 2011. The first recruit was guitarist Keith Streng of The Fleshtones, followed by guitarist Eddie Munoz of The Plimsouls, keyboardist Josh Kantor of The Baseball Project and drummer Clem Burke of Blondie. The band’s debut album, Now Hear This, was released in 2013. The Split Squad made its live debut at SXSW 2013, and followed up with a West Coast tour. A year later, the band recently performed at SXSW 2014 and followed with a brief East Coast tour.
At The Bowery Electric tonight, The Split Squad focused not on the catalogue of songs from each of the musicians’ history but on a set of songs composed specifically for this new band. As a result, the set was a spirited and diverse excursion through decades of power pop, garage band and punk rock influences. While not echoing The Plimsouls, Fleshtones or Blondie, the music nevertheless sounded like a collection of thrift store 45 RPMs, and yet as new creations they also sounded fresh and shiny.
Midway in the set, Giblin told the audience that as the musicians were first coming together, they found a common fondness for the Small Faces, and so the album and tonight’s set included a cover of “Sorry, She’s Mine.” Giblin sang lead on most of the songs, although the pairing of Streng and Munoz on guitars commanded much of the attention. Kantor, whose main gig is as the organist for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, provided occasional soul grooves, and Burke proved he was worthy of his 2006 induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. On this occasion, the band was also joined on stage by Scott McCaughey, former sideman for R.E.M. and Robyn Hitchcock. The Split Squad’s live performance was a blend of turbocharged melodies, roaring hooks, guitar-fueled rock and snarly swagger.
For more information on The Split Squad, visit thesplitsquad.com.