Doing the Splits

Thoroughly unpretentious in content and design, Splitsville (True Love Records), the raw new CD from Catfight! and the Helgas, is a success for that very reason. The premise is simple and, yes, it's been done before. Two bands contribute half an album's worth of songs, share the cost and distribution. The kicker here is that both bands also share a member: drummer (Catfight!) and guitarist (the Helgas) Susanne Gibbony.

Luckily, there's no room for filler on the furious 13-song, 34-minute collection. The ladies of Catfight! go first and plow through their seven selections with trademark zeal and abandon. The trio split the charmingly chirpy vocal talents of Jennifer Kraft (guitar) and Katy Graves (bass) on songs that take the dusty old girl-group standard and add much-needed humor, swagger and defiance. The often tongue-in-cheek songs bubble with a cheerful, fuck-it-all, let's rock attitude.

Graves' tale of lovers who enjoy public displays of affection ("We Make Everybody Sick") and Kraft's amusingly woeful elegy ("Lookin' to Score") are fun highlights. The Ramones' "Carbona Not Glue" gets the Catfight! treatment here, too.

Scooter Collins and company have tempered the Helgas' buzzsaw take on Social Distortion-esque rock and added slight pop textures, marking this half of the project as a full, meaty attack. Collins' six tunes run the gamut of emotions, but all seethe with a bristling, late '70s pub-rock vibe. He chillingly recalls the rollicking heyday of Graham Parker and the Rumour on "Lucky Numbers" and "Complicated," then slams the first-rate, generically packaged album to a close with the punch-drunk "2nd Grade Punk Rock."

Splitsville is available at local independent record stores or from the bands. See www.catfight.net and www.thehelgas.com for information.