Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned split EP? Two of Melbourne’s quintessential modern pop/rock groups, Parsnip and The Shifters team up for Hip Blister, released under French label Future Folklore Records. Parsnip, who should be dance-alone-in-your-teenage-bedroom montage royalty by now, has two 7” releases since November 2017, both serving to set the band as a fun and loose quartet with an authentic sweetness. The Shifters are only slightly more established in time, bopping around Australia and Europe since the release of their self-titled album in 2015.
Hip Blister opens with three tracks from Parsnip and follows with three from The Shifters. While it’s absolutely not the case that the artists were thinking of Boston during its construction, the record has the feel of New England spring. Parsnip’s first half of the EP is light, airy, and vulnerable, leaving you feeling like you would on a 70° day in March. The Shifters half of the record is… a total shift (ugh!). A more accessible King Gizzard, these guys immediately bring a darker tone on “Photo Op”, forcing the self-reflection that you were able to ignore during your fling with Parsnip. It’s tomorrow, it’s winter again, and you didn’t wear your scarf. Both bands play their roles beautifully, and in contrast with each other, define themselves.
Aside from its sound alone, the nature of this split EP in particular presents a thoughtful exercise in implicit bias. How does the perceived gender identity of the vocalists (and in this case, the entire band) affect the way a listener receives their music? While both bands embody the lo-fi, Australian surf pop scene, Parsnip reads as springy and hopeful, while The Shifters have more of an eerie, Rock Lobster type feel. Having Parsnip and The Shifters in tandem forces me to try to distinguish the bands’ intended sounds from what I think they should be. This, of course, is impossible, but I do wonder how and why Parsnip and The Shifters may vary in their intentions. This EP lends its hand to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as albums that make their audience consider their contexts without directly asking them to do so have special value.
The only complaint to be had is that of any good EP – I wish it was longer. Check out Parsnip, The Shifters, and the rest of Melbourne (there’s more than just Courtney Barnett)!!