The Gear Daddies grew up in Austin, Minn., where, according to them, there’s nothing to do at night but drink and fight. They recorded Let’s Go Scare Al — named for a practical joke played on a friend — two years ago for a tiny independent label. Then they were signed by PolyGram, a major label smart enough to reissue the album.
In Minneapolis, the Gear Daddies stood apart from the music scene that produced such out-on-the-edge bands as Husker Du and the Replacements, singing their own brand of country-tinged rock. It’s simple music, put together with nothing much more than guitars, basic drumming, a few moments of harmonica, and the weary but alert voice of lead singer Martin Zellar.
The songs either bounce or quietly yearn. Decisive melodies help the lyrics sketch a middle-aged housewife in a trailer court (”She’s Happy”); men drunk in bars; a woman abandoned by the father of her child (”Boys Will Be Boys”); or a guy who thinks his life is worthless crying beneath a downtown landmark (”Statue of Jesus”). The housewife might not be as happy as the song’s title claims. All we know is that she ”doesn’t covet what she doesn’t have,” and that ”she cries when she remembers the day when Elvis died.”
Likewise, the single mother understands, in the song’s cutting refrain, ”she’s f—ed again,” but also ”from what she’s seen this is how things work.” Zellar doesn’t like his town (he tells us so in ”Heavy Metal Böyz”), but he watches what goes on there with clear-eyed compassion.