Getting Todd Rundgren
to produce and replacing McGuire with a separate rhythm section, bassist William Shaw and drummer David King
(though McGuire still adds drums throughout), 12 Rods
came up with the intriguing goods once again on Separation Anxieties
. The quirky pop edge that helped make earlier releases such a joy is still present: Ryan Olcott's singing remains as bright and fresh as it did on Gay?
, while odder, off-kilter touches crop up here and there. Whether 12 Rods
is consciously aiming at a bit of clattering early-XTC
style herky-jerk pop or it just stumbled across it for the opening "Kaboom!," the result's a winner, shifting easily between that and the soaring keyboard/guitar whoosh the group is rapidly making its own. From there on in it's another great set of songs resolutely pursuing its own pace, staying aside from prevailing start-of-the-millennium trends and simple, revivalist nostalgia both. The definite hints of sounds from the Beach Boys
' lush Pet Sounds pop ("I Think I'm Flying") to post-shoegazer overload crop up, but in the end 12 Rods
stakes its own small place. Rundgren's professional hand can be detected in both the crisp, stop-on-a-dime arrangements and the overall lushness of the sound, but given 12 Rods
' own earlier work with the same, it's more likely he brings it more out of the band than necessarily creating it. Ev Olcott's work on keyboards is especially notable; sometimes he's content just to shade, as on the lovely "Radioaction," but on the sweetly spooky nighttime jazz of "Your Secret's Safe With Me" it's precisely what creates the great atmosphere. Add in such beauties as the initially kid-with-music-box then full-on crunch of "Marionette" and the gently lazy "Rock n' Roll Band," with a hilarious list of supposed "kinds" of rock bands at the end, and 12 Rods
does it again, with style.