Released January 23, 1996 on LP, CD, and cassette. Caroline and Quigly Records.
You all remember Walt Mink I’m sure. They released Bareback Ride a few years ago and followed it up with a show at the Bar & Grill. The release, the band’s second, was on Caroline. Surprise of surprises. I never expected to see Walt Mink make the leap to the majors but they have. Atlantic didn’t receive many positive words from me last month due to the poor quality of the advance cassettes they sent. I still believe that an advance cassette is about as valuable as a Canadian dime inserted in a public library copy machine.
What the hell the major label is going to do with these guys escapes me. They’re a geek rock band with a hero on guitar who sings like Alvin the Chipmunk or something. El Producto moves right along through the hard/progressive rock psych to acoustic folk psych to Plant/Page world beat psych. Flip the thing over and find “Little Sister” which is some kind of thrash/hard-core psych. As usual the combination of advance cassette, $3 headphones and $15 Walkman make the listening experience akin to snorkeling in the murky waters of the Jordan River. The power of the trio shines through. Instead of using his fearful talents to jam on and on into the night. John Kimbrough continues his search for the perfect lick by keeping the songs short. The songs range from swirling dervishes to peeling skin from bone power to pretty folk. If this is what people call retro rock or progressive rock (both terms applied to Walt Mink in the past) I’ll take it over a whole stack of “God damned hippie bands” or Queensryche, Rush, Into Another bootleg tapes any time. Visit the “chain” store on January 23, the scheduled release date, and make the “clerk” open a copy. Listen for free and if you like, buy at the independents. – (source)
The return of this flower-power trio is further proof that “alternative” isn’t an opposition to Big Rock, just its latest incarnation – which would be fine by me if it just sounded good, which should be a prerequisite for good rock and roll of all sizes. While obviously lacking in “roll” this made-for-heavy rotation Modern Rock easily outstrips most of its peers. A less brooding and pretentious Smashing Pumpkins? Yes. A better Smashing Pumpkins? That too.
Walt Mink combines punk volume and speed with a pre-punk commitment to instrumental virtuosity and a trippy innocence that recalls Sixties psychedelia before the side effects set in. John Kimbrough is a flashy guitarist, Candice Belanoff a fine bass player and the addition of former Bitch Magnet drummer Orestes Morfin hasn’t hurt their sound a bit. However, what one can make out of Kimbrough’s pleasant poetry is reminiscent of Robert Plant circa “Misty Mountain Hop,” so perhaps we should stick to the music. Kimbrough’s Alvin, Simon and Theodore vocals are uniquely annoying in the Plant tradition also.
Very listenable, but Walt Mink’s on their third label in about three years, which isn’t the usual path to success for next big things.
Walt Mink creates whiny, mellow grunge sound. Every once in a while, we receive compact discs from little no-name bands on independent labels just begging to be reviewed. Some of them turn out to be promising, deserving of that all-important publicity and radio airplay. Alternative wanna-be Walt Mink was not one of these surprises. The main differences between Walt and these other bands is that Walt Mink isn’t on an indie label. Atlantic Records has the dubious distinction of signing this band to a contract. Their album “En [sic] Producto” tries to be a mellower form of grunge. They succeed a little too well. When a CD makes me want to do homework, something’s wrong. I can’t specify what I didn’t like. I liked John Kimbrough’s voice and the lyrics, that that’s where it ended. I like a CD that make me sit up and notice, like Pearl Jam’s “Ten”. My hopes were dashed when the first four or five songs, most notably “Overgrown”, kinda blended together into one blasé mix of whiny music put me to sleep. Candice Belanoff’s bass parts were not that imaginative. I have friends who were in garage bands when I was 12 who had a better sound. I had to strain to listen to her parts over working on my compositin paper … three weeks early. I was disappointed by Atlantic’s “find”. Better luck next time, guys. – Jason Tarwater
Walt Mink lies somewhere between Rush and a low-fi place. The sound is too dirty to be equated exactly with progressive rock, but the Canadian trio’s shadow looms all over El Producto in the time signatures and the guitar lines. And it’s the early Led Zeppelin-influenced Rush, too, not the much-revered (deservedly so) Moving Pictures-era Rush. The cool part is that Walt Mink is not just Rush with less-than-crisp production. It’s a whole new animal. And just when you think you have Walt Mink pinned, they’ll throw in a new influence (most notably, British folk singer Nick Drake, whose “Pink Moon” they’ve covered in the past).
Chances are you’ll probably listen to this a few times before you get past the post-punk style and see the underlying prog-rock influence (I’ll admit, I was tipped off by another review I read), but in this time, Walt Mink will almost certainly grow on you. The band seems to write a little above their ability to play, but this works well. Instead of focusing on their musical talents (which are just good enough to pull of their songs – in other words, they write like Rush, they don’t play like them), you will inevitably be drawn to the songs themselves.
The songs on El Producto can be split into two main categories: the time-changing, distorted guitar riffing rockers and the mellow, folky, psychedelic experiments. The best of the rockers is probably “Overgrown.” The memorable lead guitar riff turns around on itself like all the great riffs of the ’70s art rock. Some technical precision is there, but it never overshadows the song. You practically have to try tapping along before you realize what a strangely constructed tune it is.
“Listen Up” is like Led Zeppelin (or even more closely, solo Robert Plant in the vocal nuances) at Bad Religion speed. “Me and My Dog” is probably the most straightforward non-acoustic song on the album. It’s almost the song with the most telling Rush influence. (I know, I’ll stop already with the Rush comparisons).
A slight middle-eastern influence permeates the soft “Settled.” Again, the sound is more Led Zeppelin or maybe the Beatles’ “Within You, Without You,” than actual middle-eastern music. It helps add to the hodgepodge effect. One of the Drake-influenced songs “Love in the Dakota” is the only song where the lyrics really stand out. Basically, it’s a Cliff’s Notes version of “Rosemary’s Baby” without a direct reference to Satan. It’s weird and good. It’s like Walt Mink. – Dave Bloom
A Minneapolis (the city of choice this week apparently in new release) trio, Walt Mink establish from the get-go that they can rock with the best of ’em. The band comes out strong on the high-energy “Stood Up”. John Kimbrough, Candice Benaloff, and Orestes Morfin follow that with more power pop/punk numbers, but on “Betty” and the soothing “Settled”, the threesome prove it has more than a one-dimensional sound going. This could be a sleeper Modern Rock hit.
Mostly, Walt Mink’s new album, “El Producto”, will make you feel good. Guitar riffs whip around bongo beats and the pleasant blending of the trio’s cheery voices to assert an easy-going playfulness unparalleled by other modern rock groups. Best explained as a down-home mellowness escorted into the electric world of guitars by a stir-crazy drummer and solid bass, Walt Mink prances on both sides of the folk/rock fence. At times, like in the song, “Love In the Dakota,” the violins and acoustic guitar will jerk a tear from your lonely eye while at others, like in the work “Overgrown,” you’ll just get the irrepressible urge to spin, spin, spin around the room like a child in a patch of daisies. There’s simply something different about this band, though it’s hard exactly to say what that something is. Maybe it’s that despite the depressing lyrics, most tunes leave you smiling and glad to exist. For instancew, the track, “Settled,” propagates visions of “streets and empty doors, broken glass and bottles, fear is everywhere, leaves me bare and troubled.” Yet, the Far Eastern influences in the song exert a tranquillity and sturdiness which counteract all other musical forces and forms of logic to provide you with a happy glow. It’s actually sort of weird. In any case, it’s usually best not to question how the powers that be manage to contort your emotions into the desired form. You are the consumer. You buy the product. You support the economy. You are entertained. Enough said. – V.V. B
Walt Mink joined the ever-growing list of power trios in the alternative-rock world with its recently released major-label debut, “El Producto,” on Atlantic Records.
Isn’t there a pretty good chance that Walt Mink might suffer from a saturated market?
“Hopefully the songs and the playing and the place we’re coming from will help us stand out,” said Walt Mink’s singer, guitarist and songwriter John Kimbrough. “We’re interested in having interesting songs and ways of getting three-minute pop songs together.”
To be fair, Walt Mink sounds nothing like today’s standard power-pop trio. While most of today’s bands sound like a cross between the original British Invasion and Green Day’s post-punk, Walt Mink’s swirling psychedelic rhythms, musicianship, and complex arrangements place it more in line with Seventies heavy metal bands like Rush and Led Zeppelin.
“We’re just trying to make interesting records,” Kimbrough said. “We’re just trying to make stuff that sounds cool to our ears.”
If Seventies progressive metal performed with today’s alternative sensibilities sounds interesting, you can hear Walt Mink touring the area with Chicago-based Fig Dish tonight at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, Saturday at Coney Island High in Manhattan, and Sunday at the Metro in Long Branch.
If Walt Mink does break out, it will have been a long and winding stairway indeed. It waa power pop formed in 1988 when Kimbrough, who grew up in Westchester County, N.Y., met bassist Candice Belanoff at Macalaster College in Minneapolis. The young band was invigorated by the Minneapolis music scene, which included Soul Asylum, Husker Du, and the Replacements.
“We could go down to local clubs and see bands like Soundgarden with 20 people in the audience,” Kimbrough, 28, said. “There were some pretty amazing things happening in the late Eighties.”
Kimbrough now lives in Brooklyn, and Belanoff lives in Manhattan.
Walt Mink eventually released two records on the independent Caroline label in 1992 and 1993. The band then inked a six-album deal with Columbia that fell through when the label changed management. In turn, they lost their drummer and enlisted current drummer Orestes Morfin.
“So far, so good,” Kimbrough said of the move to Atlantic. “We decided it was the right move and we went for it.”"
Although Walt Mink has opened for Soul Asylum and Paul Westerberg, there have been plenty of tough times, too.
“You name it, you name it Desperation,” Kimbrough laughed when asked how bad things got. “I’ve sold CDs, clothes. Whatever wasn’t bolted down in the apartment!”