Album of the Day: Possible Humans, “Everybody Split”

The full-length debut album from Melbourne indie rock quintet Possible Humans originally surfaced in April in a limited run of 200 vinyl copies issued by local imprint Hobbies Galore. Now, it’s being delivered to a wider audience—discerning Bandcamp users included—through Chicago’s venerable Trouble in Mind label. That release strategy is emblematic of how Possible Humans have conducted their affairs since forming in 2012—this is a band that likes to establish a self-contained universe of their own creation before welcoming in outsiders. 2016’s rickety, lo-fi Ringwood/Ozone EP was a hermetic collection of private jam-space explorations and spoken word rambles that imagined the Fall as the house band in an opium den. If that release sounded like a band gleefully and aimlessly roaming around in search of songs, Everybody Split updates us on that quest: the songs have been found.

Just as the knotty experimentation of late-‘70s post-punk got streamlined into the tuneful propulsion of ‘80s college rock, on Everybody Split, Possible Humans effortlessly trade tangle for jangle. The prickly-yet-pristine opener “Lung of the City” will come as a godsend for anyone who’s ever wondered why early R.E.M. and The Go-Betweens never became modern indie touchstones on par with The Smiths and The Cure, while “The Thumps” shows that Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever aren’t the only Melbourne band with a preternatural knack for frantic, open-road abandon. For all its engaging familiarity (heck, “Orbiting Luigi” is practically their “Man on the Moon”), Everybody Split is constantly on edge, its surface shimmer pocked with bloodletting, barbed guitars and twitchy percussion.

Now that they’re dealing with finely chiseled melodies and proper choruses, the group’s trio of vocalists maintain as caustic and disruptive a presence as when they were unleashing free-ranging rants on Ringwood/Ozone, whether it’s Steve Hewitt twisting the album’s most withering lyric (“I’m such a heel for thinking that way”) into its most rousing rallying cry on “The Thumps,” or brother Mark investing the propulsive power-pop of “Absent Swimmer” with absurdist observations like “Republic in the shape of a banana / King Crimson covering Nirvana / Guess that’s my puddle in the sky.” This pent-up tension finally boils over on the penultimate “Born Stoned,” a 12-minute Crazy Horse-via-Flying Nun odyssey that’s less a return to the band’s improvisational origins than a testament to how far they’ve advanced from them. Sure, a large chunk of the song is given over to a screeching and scorching guitar freakout—but its unrelenting sense of high drama makes it no less focused and impactful than Everybody Split’s more concise pop breakthroughs.

-Stuart Berman

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