Muskellunge Resurrect Midwestern Punk on New Album “In a Mess, In a State, and a Second Too Late”
It’s the ‘90s at Kinko’s Copies in Minneapolis, MN. Reba Fritz, John Crozier, and Benji Boyd spend their days printing up fliers for local bands and their nights going to alternative rock shows next door at the Uptown Bar. Reba, fresh out of high school, gives John, fresh out of a garage-rock band, a cassette tape of songs. Muskellunge is born.
Adding drummer Eric Tretbar, and later engineer Bryan Hanna to their lineup, the band began practicing in a warehouse space down the hall from The Replacements. Fritz recalls the band listening in the hall outside the veteran rockers’ practice space, and darting back into the Muskellunge room whenever The Replacements’ wrapped up a song. The scene in Minneapolis was tangible then. Teeming with radio stations, magazines, papers, venues, and bands, Muskellunge quickly found their place in the ecosystem.
Opening for bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Belly, and Yo La Tengo, Muskellunge brought their angular, riffy interpretation of rock to venues around the city. Their songs captured the spirit of the day – soaked in grunge, yet with a pop sensibility beneath it all. Labels started calling, the band seemed ripe for success. And then suddenly, Muskellunge vanished. Bands have a funny way of doing that, don’t they?
Fritz spent time traveling around the US. She explored cities like Chicago, Tucson, and Denver before returning to Minneapolis 17 years later. The city may be different, but Muskellunge has lost none of their edge. Fritz recalls, “John and I set up the pedals, turned on the mic, found the chords, and there it all was, still stewing in the embers – still there.” The band didn’t reunite – no. They picked up right where they left off.
And now, they’ve released a full length record. On In a Mess, In a State, and a Second Too Late, you’ll hear all the raw power of a band in their prime. The lead single, “Still Learning,” seems to reflect on the wisdom of experience. And the music is nothing short of fantastic. The band acts like they’re driving head-on into pop territory, then take an exit into sonic experimentation at the last possible second, swerving to avoid anything too predictable. Crozier’s angular riffs and Boyd’s bouncing basslines provide the perfect platform for Fritz’s gently sardonic vocals. It’s a song that will keep you on your toes. Crozier, Fritz, Boyd, and Hanna sound fully present, engaging with the details of their craft to bring us something transcendent.
If there’s anything to learn from the Muskellunge story, it’s that longevity in the arts isn’t always a straight line. It resembles life in that way – the slow, persistent wandering across the Southwest. Across the fretboards. Across the airwaves. One way or another, we find our way back to the songs–and the people–that feel like home.
In a Mess, In a State, and a Second Too Late is just the beginning for Muskellunge. They’ve still got miles to go. Minneapolis may have changed, but Muskellunge are just as vibrant and powerful as their first incarnation. Songwriting is healing – and you can hear that salve in Fritz’s lyrics. The joy of creation is still a powerful force for the members of Muskellunge: a fire reignited by the immediacy of the global pandemic. The joy of listening, though, is for us on the other end of the stereo.
“From the angular guitar riff to the stellar drumbeat, the song oozes melody. Boyd also plays a bassline that adds an entirely new dimension to the song, fitting between the snare hits and guitar riffs with precision. Amidst all of the puzzle pieces, Fritz’ vocals and melody provide the glue. As the song builds into its chorus, there’s a crescendo of distorted guitars, crashing cymbals, and Fritz’ double-tracked vocals that rivals any catchy musical moments in the indie rock canon.“Glide Magazine