Split albums have always been mixed-bag releases. In the days of yore, when vinyl and cassette was the only medium, it was rather easy to accept the two sides as that: two sides, to be listened to as individual records, and not as some sort of seemly collaboration between two acts. Of course, at the time split releases were often done as a way for two young, poor acts to release songs and split the cost, and the idea was a noble one. With the advent of the compact disc, the notion of two acts releasing two individual records on one format was lost. How can you listen to two sides when the disc continues the flow? Maybe it's just me, but if both bands aren't killer, then listening to two bands on the same disc can be a bit boring.
When listening to Kilowatthours & The Rum Diary, though, it's good to see that two bands got it right. In this case, it's a question of two bands who share musical ideas and themes yet are distinct enough that the music doesn't sound the same. The bands tempered this by mixing their tracks--for the most part, it's Kilowatthours on the odds, Rum Diary on the evens, so the album doesn't really feel like a 'split' release inasmuch as it does a collaboration. Though the two bands only come together on one song, "(Ex)Change," the rest of the record is varied enough to feel as if the two groups had been in the studio together.
As for the individual tracks, you really couldn't ask for any better material from both bands. Though the Rum Diary's "Memory Controls" and "Poolside" are a bit more rock oriented than their grand, epic album,Poisons That Save Lives; "The Electroencephalograph" is an interesting number that turns tribal by songs end, and the otherwise excellent "In An Attempt to Reach the Shore" seems to be a bit restrained--you get the feeling they really want to let the song rip. Kilowatthour's "Letting Go" and "King" are pure shoegazer rock, but "Halos" and "Twentysix" are simply gorgeous bliss-pop, and it shows that the band has certainly matured over the past year or so.
Kilowatthours & The Rum Diary is a great introduction for two of today's better bands, and it also serves as a nice teaser for the next Kilowatthours record. I wasn't really aware of how much this band's grown, and if the four songs on this little record are any indication, their new album is going to be excellent indeed. This is a pleasant record for those moments when you need it mellow.