Centro-matic started as a side-project for Johnson, but soon took a life of its own. There was always a duality to his work. Initially the louder and softer material was meted between seperate releases, as evinced by the Navigational and The Static vs. The Strings Vol 1 records, but recent years have found them subdivided further, with the quieter more melancholic fare taking the form of sister band South San Gabriel.
Centro-matic takes the baton for the louder fare. Their hawk of the duo is my favorite of the two on this dual release. The eleven songs are some of the best Centro has released and that sure is saying something. It reminds me of the Jay Bennett (read: good) Wilco era. How Tweedy can have a band that mind-numbingly boring with Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche in the fold is a staggering accomplishment. Maybe it's the lack of Obama mania, but Centro-matic have released a record that trounces all over that Chicago franchises last three record. From the opening 'the rat patrol and djs' to the closing 'a critical display of snakes' it is hook after hook. Trust me, you need this record. Maybe sell an Arcade Fire record or two.
Now South San Gabriel I'm a little more ambivalent about. South San Gabriel tends to have more guests and be that much more slow and depressing. That's not a bad thing. I saw them for the first time opening up the American Music Club reunion shows and they are definitely cut from the same cloth. With the new Mark and Vudi AMC, SSG might be able to stand a chance, but they are no Engine or California era AMC. The material is good, and there's the same Centro underpinning to remind you that the bands are two sides of the same coin, but it falls a little short for me. It's better than most of the stuff your find on your average Paste sampler. It's no Dakota Suite, but it's also better than the last AMC record, so perhaps some standings need to be recalculated.
You get both records when you buy Dual Hawks, so there's no sense splitting hairs. There is a Saturday Night/Sunday Morning dichotomy between the two records and I'm not talking the Counting Crows record. I could (and, I guess, now will) refer to the Ralph Stanley record Adam ripped the title off from. Stanley and the boys played the hell out of a lot of barn dances, but were in church on time the next day. South San Gabriel seems more steeped in regret than repentance, but I'm sure there's enough of both to go around. Personally, I would buy Dual Hawks for Centro-matic and stay for the South San Gabriel. You can acquire the means to do both here. Centro and SSG are wrapping up live dates behind Dual Hawks, but Will is coming through town next month for a solo show with Chris Brokaw. Keep up on that and all of the other going on in their dual worlds here. If you'd like to be their internet friend, do it here, but after you pick up Dual Hawks.