Split Single front man Jason Narducy can mold a bit of guitar distortion and a sweet melody into a lifeline. On “Bitten by the Sound,” a standout on Split Single’s new third album, Amplificado (Inside Outside), Narducy’s sheer but ironclad guitar embodies the white-hot energy of rock, which has mystified him since childhood. As a fifth grader in the early 1980s, he cofounded Evanston hardcore band Verböten, which inspired future rock icon Dave Grohl to pick up drums and provided the source material for a contemporary musical, also called Verböten; Chicago playwright Brett Neveu enlisted Narducy to write the songs for the stage show, which debuted two months before the pandemic. Narducy has been making music professionally since the early 90s, when he and Alison Chesley (aka Helen Money, who contributes to Amplificado) began the collaboration that would evolve into the alt-rock band Verbow. These days he splits his time playing bass for Bob Mould and touring with Superchunk, and he’s front and center in his own alt-rock project Split Single.
Amplificado addresses the anger, anxiety, and full-body exhaustion of the late Trump years, though alt-rock can only do so much in the face of a narcissistic despot who openly despises anyone who doesn’t claim fealty. Narducy, now 50, uses his music as a salve—on “95 Percent,” he whips up succinct riffs and triumphant melodies with the energizing effect of a shot of espresso. Drummer Jon Wurster (also of Superchunk and Bob Mould’s band) and bassist Mike Mills (of the defunct R.E.M.) mirror Narducy’s energy and intensity while leaving him plenty of room to steer the album through its twists and turns. Narducy’s clean, honeyed singing has a hint of weary grit, which lets him stir up bittersweet feelings with just an inflection—a subtle touch that infuses the borderline ballad “Satellite” with the kind of vitality that can turn ordinary people into rock lifers. v