We’re going out on a limb here, but sometimes you’ve got to take a risk and make the tough calls
Everybody loves a good indie-rock origin story — like Paul Westerberg holding it down as a janitor in the office of a Minnesota senator before joining the Replacements, or Dayton, Ohio’s Robert Pollard teaching grade school while biding his time before Guided By Voices became a thing. Here’s a new one for you: Meet Mike Maple, a mailman in the small college town of Marquette, Michigan who spends his time walking the postal beat dreaming up relentlessly fun punk-rock tunes to play in his band Liquid Mike. “Given what you know/The American dream is a Michigan hoax,” he informs us on their excellent new album Paul Bunyan’s Slingshot. These guys turn their Upper Peninsula slacker blues into guitar-banger gold.
Liquid Mike debuted in 2022 with the EP A Beer Can and A Banquet, with focus tracks like “Lease Agreement” and “All Hail the Ketamine Kids.” The press photo that went out with Paul Bunyan’s Slingshot shows the band sitting around a fire pit cooking hot dogs, and the LP opens with “Drinking and Driving,” a song that highlights a life skill the members of Liquid Mike may have had down before they were out of high school. (To be clear, we’re not condoning the practice.) On Paul Bunyan’s Slingshot they play short, fast, muscular songs that split the difference between Nineties pop-punk and Nineties indie-rock, tempering the petulant angst of the former with the latter’s winning resignation.
On “K2,” they build a song about a wasted summer out of stupid Coldplay allusions (“The rush of blood straight to your head/You pissed your pants/And they were all yellow”), making the goofy conceit work because the music is so charged up and fun. On “Drug Dealer,” which sounds like Blink-182 by way of GBV, Maple sings about being stuck getting stoned with his friend and her scary new boyfriend, processing a bunch of weird feelings in a high-as-hell torpor. “USPS,” a bouncing ode to Maple’s place of work, suggests Weezer with a working-class soul. On “Small Giants” he offers the sage piece of advice: “You can shoplift any store you want/It’s not pathetic if you don’t get caught.”
Paul Bunyan’s Slingshot knocks through 13 songs in just 25 minutes, including a thirty-second Superchunk tribute and a minute-long Built to Spill throwback. But it leaves a lasting impression. In fact, you might have to go back to the 1971 debut by John Prine to find a record by an employee of the United States Postal Service that wins this hard.