September 22, 1989 at Kirk Basement

Venue: Kirk Basement

Note: the review originally appeared in the September 29, 1989 issue of MacWeekly.


Walt Mink Rules Kirk Basement by Tony Van Dorston

After missing several opportunities to see Walt Mink play, I asked people what they were like. “Aw dude, they ROCK!” I was told.

So does Motley Crue on a good night, and they still suck. What people fail to do is to point out the difference between a band like Walt Mink and any stupid metal band, or even a good one like Motorhead.

People started noticing the difference about five years ago when a flourishing underground of groups began working at the interface between punk and acid rock and got it right. Bands like Flipper, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Butthole Surfers, and Dinosaur Jr. became lost beneath a glorious swell of noise ranging from beautiful to butt-ugly.

Unlike their 70’s metal predecessors, they no longer used the guitar as an - instrument of self-projection, as a weapon, nor a phallus (well, sometimes). The guitar riffs drowned in its textures, the players disappeared as individuals. They became radically self-effacing, literally getting wiped out by their own noise.

In interview they tended to be either mute, or eject analysis, ascribing what they do to instinct. My favorite band, Dinosaur Jr. would rather talk about the Brady Bunch more than anything else, and they’re witty enough to mock pretention by slaughtering The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” They reportedly did the cover so they could meet death rock girls.

Like many of their peers, Dinosaur Jr. buries the vocals under their uplifting noise, nearly losing J. Mascis’s small fallible voice. They combine lyrical dejection with a transcendent harmonic feedback. It’s a musical violence free of machismo, a smart mix of humor, wounded fragility and love driven mad.

Now another bunch of bands are starting a new “old” direction in sound. They are no longer desecrating the shrine of the guitar hero. Instead, they are worshiping it once more. These bands decided all they wanted to do was be Led Zeppelin.

The most popular bands can be found on Seattle, Washington’s SubPop label. Among them are Green River, Soundgarden, Swallow, Nirvana, and best of all, Mudhoney. The phallic guitar is again being used for masturbatory solos, bombastic chords and shouted choruses.

These cock-swinging dirtballs manage to steal from the seventies while retaining enough wits about them to continue the creative progress the earlier bands began. For an example, listen to Mudhoney’s single “You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face).”

This is about where Macalester’s Walt Mink fits in. With guitarist John Kimbrough’s bad-ass licks and goofy chord progressions-and the amazing rhythm section of bassist Candice Belanoff and drummer Joey Waronker, they put on an enjoyable show last Friday in Kirk basement. My favorite cover was their treatment of Big Star’s “Back Of A Car”.

They brewed up a stew of distorted funk and metal that nearly rendered most other music insignificant for that wonderful hour in the hot, steamy beer-soaked Kirk basement.

They are not, however, Sub-Pop material. Kimbrough needs more distinct songs that do more than just showcase his guitar playing. It would be a huge improvement to be able to hear the singing and speed some of the songs up from sludge pace.

If you find this style addictive, check out the Bone Club, who opened up for Naked Raygun and the Magnolias the last two weekends. Then strap yer drawers-on tightly so they don’t get blown off when you see Mudhoney at 7th Street Entry in the middle of October. Psychotic Frog will also be playing soon in the Union, 9 p.m. Wednesday evening, October 4th.

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