Walt Mink – Bareback Ride (Caroline, 1993)

“The children of the radio/Like lemmings to the sea/They swallow what they’re given/Coz it’s easy and it’s free” — “Disappear.” Prophetic or what? Whether intentional or not, Minneapolis trio Walt Mink have hit upon the reason why there is so much bland shite on the radio and in the charts and, ironically, the reason why this, their second long player (their debut, Miss Happiness, appeared last year — I blinked, I missed it), isn’t going to sell by the truckload. Although Walt Mink are hardly in the same experimental league as, say, Mercury Rev or Trumans Water, they do stray from the safe, predictable, one-dimensional, radio-friendly “indie” sounds — take a bow, Kingmaker, Senseless Things, Frank & Walters et al (and while we’re on the subject, am I the only one who thought that the line-up for the XFM concert in June — save for Belly — was pretty fucking dismal? Let’s hope the station’s playlist proves to be more eclectic.)

But I digress…Bareback Ride is an absolute gem of an album, an exhilarating example of just how cool American college rock can be. Walt Mink have clearly raided Alternative Rock’s kitchen, nicked the best ingredients, and created ten tracks that sound totally fresh. Contained within this diverse package is something for everyone; the Pop Kids can bounce along happily to the likes of “Subway” and “What A Day,” while the flannel shirt brigade are able to shake their matted tresses in time with the titanic guitar riffs that bulldoze their way through “Zero Day,” “Disappear” and “Frail.” Both “Sunnymede” and “Tree In Orange” provide a change in pace, utilizing acoustic instruments. Still want more variety? Check out the inclusion of flute, cello, violin, mellotron and vibraphone on selected pieces.

Lyrically, Walt Mink appear to have graduated from the Evan Dando school of songwriting, as they offer some wonderful, off-beat observations on everyday life, like “Riding in the subway on a snowy afternoon/Avoiding people’s eyes/Noticing how many different kinds of shoes there are/Watching them go by” (“Subway”), while “Sunnymede” sounds more like a children’s lullaby or nursery rhyme. On the whole, Bareback Ride resonates with a sense of innocence and wonderment. Cult status beckons.

Kelly Cornwall

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