Minnesota Music Notes: Rank Strangers' tripled rock
Mike Wisti's scrappy trio marks its 25th anniversary with its third great record of 2015.
November 12, 2015 — 2:37pm
Mike Wisti’s Rank Strangers didn’t just release one of the best local rock albums of 2015. They released three of them.
A reliable group that’s never been all that hotly hyped but also has never lacked in respect — call it the Summit EPA of local bands — the raggedly psychedelic and classically poppy basement-rock trio came up with a grand idea to mark the big occasion of its 25th anniversary this year: an album trilogy.
Sure, I thought, when singer/guitarist and lone original Rank Stranger Wisti first sent word of his plans to issue three (vinyl) LPs by year’s end. If he and the guys do pull it off, the last record is sure to offer a bunch of throwaway tunes. Even Guided by Voices — a band Wisti’s group is often deservedly compared to — didn’t have that good of a batting average in its most hyper-prolific years.
Here comes the third record, though, and it puts them at a thousand. Titled “The Box,” it follows the hard-blasting winter LP “Lady President” and summer’s more experimental “Ringtones,” and it might even be the most accessible of the batch.
Wisti has a natural knack for clever studio work and ample time to do it, also being the operator of Albatross Recording (see: Grant Hart, Black Diet, Lucy Michelle). Here, the studio guru layers the songs with cool tinges of organ or horn parts but never buries his warped, witty, catchy writing style, apparent right away in the plunky opening ballad “333 Nowhere St.” and such Ray Davies-esque rockers as “The Empire of Dresses” and the all-too-localized “When the Bridge Fell.” The latter tune’s fearful tone permeates several other tracks, too, giving the record a bit of a paranoid vibe. It’s scary good anyway.
With bassist Davin Odegaard and Shawn Davis, Wisti will have the new LPs in tow for the band’s official silver anniversary show Saturday at 7th Street Entry, also featuring the Magnolias, Sex Rays and Wowsville (9 p.m., $8-$10.) They’re also playing an in-store set at Hymie’s Vintage Records on Sunday (6 p.m., free).