Home Read Albums Of The Week: 12 Rods | If We Stayed Alive

Albums Of The Week: 12 Rods | If We Stayed Alive

The underappreciated Twin Cities pop-rockers pick up where they left off on their first disc in 21 long years — mostly because these songs were written 22 years ago.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “When Ryan Olcott, songwriter and frontman of Twin Cities’ iconic indie rock band 12 Rods, found unfinished band demos during lockdown, he was surprised. When he realized they were good, he was shocked. He quickly set to finishing and recording the compositions, which became If We Stayed Alive, the first 12 Rods release in 21 years. “These are songs that I forgot about,” he explains, “but upon finding them, I thought, ‘Wow, these are actually OK.’ ”

That was the easy part. Reacquainting himself with 20-year-removed craft and technique took some getting used to — some parts longer than others. He recorded all the instruments in a week, but vocals took a bit longer. “Oh my god!” he laughs, “it took a couple days to get my voice back with that range and that power, but I could do it.” Any cobwebs that needed dusting are long gone. If We Stayed Alive is everything longtime fans have wanted, and the perfect introduction to what some called “America’s Radiohead” and what others have called one of the best indie bands of the ‘90s.

Despite these songs being written 22 years ago, their sound, themes, mood are evergreen. Lead single and pop nugget My Year (This Is Going To Be) is both the appropriate ticket to a new era and a souvenir of the past, gussied up in self-awareness, humor, and perhaps the faintest bit of hope: “Cause with all my calculations / Everything looks so, so clear / This is going to be my year.” Which of us didn’t watch the dawn of 2020 thinking the same, only to have confused stellar light with nuclear flash? Everything magnetic in vintage Rods is here — pitch-perfect Beach Boys-style harmonies, clean, rhythmic guitar, grooving bass, steady drums — and that clear, plaintive voice invoking our deepest, silliest wish: That everything’s going to be OK.

And that’s only one of the album’s seven bangers. From album opener All I Can Think About, with its subdued inner monologue musings that meander from world-weary to awestruck, to the grunge-indebted Comfortable Situation to the smooth, loungey The Beating, it’s clear that Olcott isn’t just picking up where he left off, but having fun while doing it. “To be honest,” Olcott says, “I think it’s the best material I’ve had to offer so far.”