"Arena rock riffs" and "warm, intimate pop" are not phrases one normally
Not until now, anyway.
But Wolf Colonel, the new vehicle for Olympia’s Jason Anderson, is all about shattering conventions. On Vikings of Mint, Anderson takes songs that began as folky singer-songwriter pop and plays them LOUD, like ‘70s dinosaur rock, throwing in plenty of “Whoa-Oh-Oh”‘s and “Hey”‘s and “Yeah”‘s for good measure. There are lots of simple pop acts around and equally as many big, loud rock bands, but no one around takes these two styles from complete opposite ends of the spectrum and blends them together so successfully.
Remember when Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard announced way back that he was teaming up with Ric Ocasek and going major-label, promising the biggest, loudest pop record the indie rock world would ever hear? Well, this is what Do the Collapse was supposed to be. It’s simple, it’s pop, and it roars like a lion.
Vikings of Mint is 15 songs, none longer than two and a half minutes, and every one of them layers hooks galore over the most basic indie rock around. Add power pop smarts with fist-pumping choruses, and Vikings of Mint becomes Badfinger meets Badmotorfinger, a stellar album that no one who loves rock ‘n’ roll should miss. The songs are as simple as fingerpaintings but played as loud as the amps will allow, and with completely unadorned production, a K signature, Vikings works great whether heard through headphones while lying in bed or blasting out of the stereo at a room-rattling volume.
Anderson’s apparently been playing these songs acoustically at coffeeshops for years. That’s easy to imagine after hearing these recordings, because beneath the bombast is the sound of a solo artist’s work, and Anderson plays everything but an organ on a couple of tracks and the drums. But there’s also an undeniable full-group feel, not just because of the cranked-up guitars but the doubled-up choruses and lyrics about smoking pot with the band in the back of the tour van.
Now that Vikings of Mint is here, Anderson’s got an actual band lined up for his next effort, an album that’s already completely recorded. No one releases multiple albums in a year anymore, but here’s hoping Anderson and Wolf Colonel will. In the meantime, I’ll listen to Vikings of Mint over and over, and if you’re smart you’ll run out to the record store, buy yourself a copy and do the same, because, surprisingly, arena rock and indie pop really can be an excellent mix.