12 Rods - Gay? [EP] (Cover Artwork)

12 Rods

Gay? [EP] (1996)


As stated on the bands Facebook page, 12 Rods are a “Progressive, Alternative, Hyperemotional, Space-Pop band from Minneapolis.”

12 Rods formed in 1992 in Oxford Ohio and self-released a full length album titled Bliss in 1993. They eventually moved to Minneapolis Minnesota and established themselves there as a small local underground act. In 1996 they released the ep Gay? and at their first local show former Pitchfork columnist Jason Josephes and Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber saw 12 Rods' play and bought the ep right after. What happened next was a review from Pitchfork with a perfect 10.0 score, something not many artists have achieved on that site. That score brought the band lots of attention and publicity in the indie scene.

Later that same year 12 Rods became the first American act to sign to the newly founded V2 Records, who then re-released the ep allowing the band more exposure and studio funding.

This ep is more like a full length album, clocking in over 38 minutes, but since there are only six tracks it gets that format release. This is a real gem, but what keeps it from a perfect score is track 3, “Gaymo”. Nothing wrong music wise, but the song is a slow burner and puts a full stop in the halfway mark of the album. It’s immediately rejuvenated with the fourth track “Mexico” which might be the ep’s best song.

“Mexico” is a pulsating, moody, and atmospheric track that is reminiscent of the more psychedelic sides of Shoegaze/Dream-Pop bands like Cocteau Twins and Bethany Curve. The use of synths gives the song a very melodic drive which complements the chorus and the vocals of lead singer Ryan Olcott who goes from sounding like Billy Corgan to Ian Curtis.

But going back a bit, opening track “Red” sounds like something you’ve never heard of before, but then it does. You see, there’s something very distinct about the sound of this collection of music. I got weird vibes that reminded me of places and things from the past. One such notion is remembering Squaresoft JRPG’s from the 90’s. Huh? Yeah, no really. The music takes some of the more twinkly parts of computerized orchestrations, especially piano, that you would hear on an SNES cart and it’s played back through live instrumentation. For an example listen to track five “Friend”. It sounds like something from Chrono Trigger crossed with music by Slowdive or Ride.

It’s really freakin’ great man! Track two, “Make Out Music” is a high driven, chord progressing song with some awesome sounding guitar jangles. There’s a bit of a mid-90’s Jesus and Mary Chain and A.R. Kane sound going on here. Also go back and think of the softer parts from Smashing Pumpkins songs like the breaks in “Geek U.S.A.” or “Hummer”. Last track “Revolute” is the hardest hitting of the bunch and it thrashes about, but then incorporates dynamic shifts in style which harkens back to those Pumpkins tracks I mentioned.

The bands next album was 1998’s full length Split Personalities which was also highly praised. After that they released 2000’s Separation Anxieties which failed to chart and caused the band to be dropped from their label. They did another self-release in 2002 called Lost Time then quietly broke up in 2004. They got back together in 2015 for a reunion show and it was filmed for a documentary called “Accidents Waiting to Happen” which was a Kickstarter project about the rise and fall of the band.

The most disappointing thing in the end is not many people know who these guys were and sadly their music hasn’t been reissued on formats like vinyl which is a huge mistake. Take a chance and dig it…