I’ve been saying for a while that as music scenes go, Ottumwa (in conjunction with its surrounding smaller communities) is an undiscovered gem. It’s a pretty nondescript, not particularly large town that you might otherwise overlook, and yet it’s the area that gave birth to The Eggnogs and since then has brought us Samuel Locke-Ward, She Swings She Sways, North To The Future, The War I Survived, Grand Old Lady, A Well Dressed Man, and for a time contributed a drummer to The Slats. And that’s before I even get into what Andy Koettel has been up to for the past couple decades.
Andy is a kind of musician that I also am, the kind whose ever-shifting interests lead him down a wide range of artistic tangents and diverse projects. For many years he ran the Mortville label, specializing in noisecore, avant-grind, and tardcore, in conjunction with his on-again-off-again band Captain 3 Leg, one of the most artistically adventurous and most fun bands ever to appear on the noisecore-grindcore scene, who have themselves experimented extensively with electronics, instrumentals, progressive rock, and sludge, no doubt frustrating grind/metal purists to no end and reveling in any backlash it got them.
A big part of my theory on why Ottumwa grows so much good, if often overlooked, music has to do with just the kind of town it is. If you’re from a place like Ottumwa (or even Waterloo or Cedar Falls), and you stay there, then if you keep on playing music, then you have to be in it purely for the love of music itself. Because those who are looking for money or fame or respect out of it eventually move to a city that’s either bigger (NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle) or hipper (Chapel Hill, Olympia). And no disrespect to anyone who goes that route, because it’s still a hard road and you’re likely to still need that love of music to keep you motivated even then. But the people left making music in the smaller towns and cities with less of a mass-media profile are people who could really give a fuck, and as you might expect, some really interesting music can come out of that if the creative atmosphere is right. Hell, Seattle wasn’t always the Seattle we know today. Remember when the grunge blowup happened in the early ’90s, early reactions were “Seattle who?”
The Mighty Acceleratör, which also features Ottumwa math teacher and workhorse drummer Jared Merle, a.k.a. “J-Rod” a.k.a. “Grandy” a.k.a. “J. Redcorn”, who relocated to Des Moines as recently as a couple weeks ago, and Centerville guitarist, recording engineer, and Strangebird Studio proprietor Travis Atkinson who is soon to pack up his 2″ tape machine and relocate to Nashville, originally got started some years ago, then disappeared for a bit while Andy and bassist Stephen Crow went off on an instrumental doom/sludge-metal tangent with Billy Crystal Meth (not to be confused with a certain dude from Chicago who, after stumbling onto the same name, went so far as to steal a logo from one of this Billy Crystal Meth’s CD covers). Earlier this year Acceleratör reconvened, adding Atkinson and new lead vocalist Joe Brown.
So what’s The Mighty Acceleratör’s tangent? Stated quite simply it’s just good old party-hardy rock and roll. This is riffy, beer-swillin’, don’t think too hard music. It’s been described as a ’70s throwback, but really this kind of stuff has never fallen out of favor in the blue-collar towns of middle-America since that decade. If you already know of these guys and the extreme, indie, and art-rock stuff in their pasts and on their shelves, it may come as a shock to hear them working this style, and maybe even more of a shock to hear them do it this well and authentically. But for as big of music nerds as they are, these have always been a set of unpretentious dudes, and from the Soccer Mom EP and a couple live sets I’ve seen, it’s evident that they didn’t go down this route to slum it; they may love their Can and Yo La Tengo records, but their affection for this lowbrow material is equally genuine. It’s a kind of appreciation that maybe you have to be from one of those middle-America towns to really understand. Cheap beer and people you’ve been around all your life make for good times, after all. If you don’t believe me, just listen to “Shake It.”
I’ve already given this release more paragraphs than it has songs, and so far it’s mainly been expository material, but basically if you’re capable of coming down off your high horse to just rock out, there’s no good reason not to like this EP. The playing is tight but just loose enough; the guitar riffs are catchy and Atkinson’s leads are familiar but fiery; the lyrics are packed with the kind of humor everybody in the bar can get. The opening/title track is an amusing portrait of a borderline creepy obsession with the titular character; “Mustache Foam” warns of the dangers of mixing facial hair with draft beer when it comes to attracting the ladies; “Droppin’ A Load” is an honest to goodness trucker song. When was the last time you heard of somebody writing a trucker song? It’s about fucking time.