• Vandalias
  • Mach V (Big Deal) 1995 
  • Buzzbomb! (Big Deal) 1998 

The story that goes with the grand-mod-funk-squad cartoon characters portrayed on this Minneapolis band’s first album is that JimJim (guitar/vocals), Bobby (bass) and Alan (guitar) Vandalia are brothers from rural Michigan — a fiction the concurrently published comic book fable upholds. The liner notes of Yellow Pills Vol. 1, however, credits Dan Sarka (who wrote the story) and Peter Daniel, late of the Twin Cities’ Raspberries-worshipping Sparrows, as the voices behind the Vandalias.

No matter. The brash but overpoweringly sincere power pop of Mach V is played as if the Vandalias — whoever they are — had invented the form. Unlike most modern practitioners, the Vandalias harbor no brattiness or irony. Heartfelt sentiments like “Watch My Baby Cry,” “Mighty Song of Joy” and “Build This House” are delivered straight, with no winking cynicism or spit-in-the-drink chaser. That may defeat the purpose of pop music that knows it will never be popular, but the Vandalias’ Midwest forthrightness (a trait shared with the Smoking Popes) is refreshing. And the sweetly sung music — part Beatles-by-way-of-the-Raspberries, a bit Byrds-like and partly in the vein of Material Issue — is unfailingly swell.

[Ira Robbins]