Free Blood exists to rock the party. Sweatily. Sexily. Awkwardly. Whatever it takes. Track down any of the recent interviews with Little Rock native John Pugh and Madeline Davy and the New York duo makes it very clear. That's Free Blood the live band. But what about us out here with nothing but our little white earbuds and shitty YouTube clips to connect us to that vibe? Suggestion: Get “The Singles” ($15.98, available everywhere) and get outta town. There's something about cranking out Free Blood's album while driving on a near-freezing Saturday through western Pulaski County that puts the collection in sharp perspective. In the same way green hillsides pop and glow on a gray day, the crunch and mania of Free Blood saturates the air. The broken funk and clatter of bass, drums, synth and noise, coupled with Pugh and Davy's call-and-response vocals, crunch and roll along for the collection's six songs.
In interviews Pugh has stated he gave up on the band's frequently failing drum machines and instead fashioned the record out of real, acoustic instruments. Real is relative, of course. You won't mistake a Free Blood track for a live-in-the-studio jam. The touchstone that comes to mind first is mid-'80s-era On-U Sound, Adrian Sherwood's smoked-up, dub-funk studio empire, wherein “real” acoustic instruments are frequently just tools, a means to an end. The studio itself becomes the master tool, leaving its mark everywhere. Five remixes from the likes of Tim “Love” Lee, Barfly and the Brothers (the album's Brooklyn-based engineering team) round out “The Singles.” The best of the bunch belongs to Manchester, England's electro-funk legend and DJ innovator Greg Wilson, who straightens out “Grumpy” just enough to get lost in it again.