Jason Narducy has spent so much time in supporting roles that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he’s fronted bands, too: he came up in the Chicago punk scene with Verböten in the 1980s and then formed Verbow in the ’90s. More recently, Narducy has recorded and toured with Bob Mould and stepped in for Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance when she decided to stay off the road to protect her already-damaged hearing. He’s also worked with Robert Pollard, Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Telekinesis, among others.
Now Narducy is back at the helm on Fragmented World, the 10-song debut from his new project Split Single. (He’s also the subject, more or less, of an excellent joke-documentary full of friends and collaborators talking about how Narducy has the “sexiest elbows in rock ’n’ roll.”) On the album, backed by Jon Wurster on drums and Daniel on bass, Narducy rolls through tunes that are skillfully balanced between muscular indie-rock and hooky pop.
They dive into Big Star-style power-pop on the rollicking title track as Narducy pushes his voice into its higher range over sunny backing vocals and a punchy beat. The song is over in less than two minutes, but it’s amazing how the time stretches out when you hit repeat over and over. Elsewhere, “Searches” starts as a terse, thrumming rocker with a splatty bassline before blossoming into a hazy psych-pop chorus with layered harmony vocals, while the robust guitar riff and soaring melody on “Never Look Back” show what Narducy has absorbed from Mould and Pollard.
It takes a little time to roll with changes among the subtle mix of styles on the album, but the pounding rocker “My Eyes” and the jangly, textured atmospherics of “Last Goodbye” are ultimately very much of a piece, and what starts as fragmented soon turns into a world that’s thrillingly whole and more than a little electrifying.