“Everybody, pay your rent.”
Maybe it translates more subjectively in text, but the preceding statement takes on a sort of reassurance as the hook of “Twelve Hundred Dollars.” Vaguely ennui’d in delivery, it’s a small part of a song that should be a year-round anthem for the functioning slacker archetype, as if to say: yeah, stocking shelves is a bore, but it pays the rent — besides, we’ll all get to hang out soon, right?
The production on the first Outdoor Miners single is a bit murky, but not with the intent of obscuring hooks or hiding instrumental woes. Take its chorus, for example: shining bright as silver through clouds of static clatter, Alec Meen’s guitar lines ascend with all the joy of a beaming summer’s high noon glow. Dig further, and more subtle touches become apparent, like the way Peter Sagar’s bass hops between a few notes before the chorus hits. Further still, the underlying themes of the song apply even in the dead of winter — those twelve hundred dollars still have to be collected, and we still need to keep on living. As much as the band may have shrugged it off, “Twelve Hundred Dollars” has “anthem” written all over it.
This Edmonton-based trio’s sound is vaguely referential in the sense that astute listeners of 90s indie rock will likely be able to spot several assorted nuggets of influence. The trio’s songs often come together in such a fully formed, seemingly effortless manner that comparisons like Pavement via Dinosaur Jr. and Galaxie 500 via the noisier moments of Yo La Tengo could be made, but this isn’t to suggest they only made competent pastiche. While a song like “Turn You Into Glue” has a beautiful Ira Kaplan guitar lead at its crest before trailing off into the noise-wrangled pop ether, it’s not like the song was built around one idea — call it homage, call it influence, but don’t call it a mere revival of ideas past: in the right hands, as demonstrated here, all sorts of influences can sound simultaneously vital and comforting.
That this band’s two singles weren’t at the top of college radio station charts across Canada is one fitting bummer of a joke — songs like “Twelve Hundred Dollars” and “Disgust” embody what I want in my indie rock more than any number of Metric and Japandroids singles could ever hope to approach. Still, due to all sorts of common reasons around these parts — e.g., life, needing to get out of Alberta — Outdoor Miners weren’t a long-lived group. Leaving only a pair of fantastic three-song 7”s and a compilation appearance for posterity, I don’t want to talk about this band in tones of hushed reverence or overblown acclaim (though admittedly, in comparison to all of the disposable garage rock Alberta tends to produce, hearing a band that probably listened to Sebadoh more than Thee Oh Sees felt like a blessing) — they were just a band of dudes that played some shows, released a bunch of great songs, and have since moved on to other things. And yet, still: “Everybody, pay your rent.”