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Monday, December 29, 2014

Mental as Anything - If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?~, Fundamental^, Mouth to Mouth*

Band: Mental as Anything
Albums: If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too~, Fundamental^, Mouth to Mouth*
Years: ~1982, ^1986, *1987
Style: New Wave, Jangle-Pop~, Island Synth^, Synth Pop^*
Similar Bands: Squeeze, Boomtown Rats, Men At Work, The Alarm, INXS^, Mighty Lemondrops^, Thomas Dolby^, Bronski Beat^, Erasure^*, Phil Collins^*
"One-Word" Review: 1-D Jangley Folksongs~, Overproduced Flat Pop^*
Based Out Of: Sydney, Australia
Label: A&M~, Columbia^*, CBS^*
If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? - Cover, sleeve photo, record

If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? -Back, Lyrics, Record
Fundamental - Cover, Lyrics, Record
 Fundamental - Back, Lyrics, Record
 Mouth to Mouth - Cover, Alternative Covers, Record
 Mouth to Mouth - Back, Lyrics, Record
If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? (1982) ~
  1. If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too? 3:11
  2. Let's Cook 2:30
  3. Too Many Times 2:45
  4. Got Hit 3:10
  5. Looking for Bird 3:40
  6. Ready For You Now 2:40/
  7. I Didn't Mean to be Mean 3:25
  8. Walking on Rails 2:34
  9. Sad Poetry 2:50
  10. The Nips are Getting Bigger 3:20
  11. Egypt 2:40
  12. Berserk Warriors 3:45
Fundamental (1986)^
  1. You're So Strong 3:25
  2. Big Wheel 4:41
  3. Live it Up 4:12
  4. Surf & Mall & Sex & Fun 3:39
  5. Good Friday 4:27/ 
  6. Date With Destiny 3:00
  7. Hold On 3:08
  8. Stones of the Heart 3:17
  9. I Just Wanna Be Happy (Drunk At A Party) 3:28
  10. Splashing 3:12
  11. Bus Ride 2:55
Mouth to Mouth (1987)*
  1. Don't Tell Me Now 3:59
  2. My Door is Always Open to You 4:00
  3. Put Me Back 4:30
  4. Let's Go to Paradise 3:17
  5. Love Me Tender 3:45
  6. The Mad King 5:14 /
  7. He's Just No Good For You 3:26
  8. Thinking Out Loud 3:48
  9. Stay At Home Girl 3:09
  10. Mouth to Mouth 3:47
  11. I'm Glad 3:17
  12. Wandering Through Heaven 3:56
Album Rating (1-10): ~ 6.0
^ 6.0
* 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Greedy (Andrew) Smith - Vox, Harmonica, Keyboards, Design^ Inner Art* Cover^(Greedy's People)
Peter O'Doherty - Bass, Vox, Guitar, Cover & Inner Art* Gravel~ (Dog Trumpet)
Wayne 'Bird' DeLisle - Drums,
Reg Mombassa (Chris O'Doherty) - Guitar, Vox, Inner Art*
Bruce Brown - Producer~
Elvis Costello - Producer~
Cameron Allan - Producer~
Russell Dunlap - Producer~
Rex Bullen - Piano~
Frank DeLuna - Mastering~
Bob King - Inner Sleeve Photo~
Grant Mathews - Back photo~
Melanie Nissen - Design~
Martin Murphy - Vox, Guitars (Beatfish)
Jana Hartig - Art Direction ^
Ken Smith - Art Direction^
Sue Woollard - Front Cover Art Direction^
Martin Plaza - Vox, Guitar, Design^, Cover Lettering*, Cover^~
Alan Wright - Engineer^
Thom Panunzio - Mixing, Recording^
Hugh Hamilton - Photography Back Cover^
Paul Clarke - Photography, Front Cover^
Frank Lindner - Photography Inner Sleeve^
Brent Melton - Back Cover Photography*
Richard Gottehrer - Producer^*
Mark Opitz - Producer*, Remixing*
Jeffret Lesser - Associate Producer*
Julian Mendelsohn - Re-Mixing*
Andrew Scott - Additional Engineering*
Alan Wright - Additional Engineering*
Spike - Additional Engineering*
Sammy Merendino - Programming*
Rick Chadwick - Keyboard Programming*
Michael Gubb - Organ*
Dale Barlow - Sax*
Greg Throne - Trumpet*
Heidi Cannavo - Tape Operator*
Jeremy Fabinyi - Management
Louise Schweikert - Management*^
Sue Perryman - Syray Publishing*

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of this band, but somehow managed to pick up 3 albums of theirs at different interval dollar bins. The covers don’t look that promising. Fundamental has the most potential with clothes and the energy of crashing through the red paper backdrop. But looking at the other two, one would deduce that their style will be throw-a-way tedious jangle pop of the mid 80’s, even if the first album is dated 1982. Also knowing that the term Mental in this context is a typically British term, I’m still intrigued to hear what these albums sound like.

Album Review: Alas, the band is not British, but Australian, and a fairly popular Australian band at that. The fact that these are US versions of their AU albums changes a lot when it comes to the track listing, and the first album here, If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too, is actually their third release called Cats & Dogs, and features four tracks swapped out for three alternative songs, one being their initial AU hit, and the other produced by Elvis Costello. Because all the members met in art school, their album artwork tended to derive from the band themselves. They reached their biggest international hit in 1986 with the song “Live It Up” as it was featured in Crocodile Dundee. Their style is typically silly and juvenile in nature, but their songs are poppy and catchy.

“If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?” was the big single from this, their third album (AU = Cats & Dogs). It features a dark, thick synth in the beginning, but is completely contrasted by the Men at Work style guitar play and upbeat, jangly guitar. The vocals are pleasant, but nothing to unique or quirky. The song is slow moving, and catchy only in the slightest bit.
“Let's Cook” is much more upbeat, and sounds not out of place amongst the Squeeze catalogue. The vocals feel simplistic, and like a second passing thought when compared to the music, which is a little carnival-like and quite bouncy. It is fun, if only a bit one dimensional and repetitive. But it is not very long, so it does not wear itself out
“Too Many Times” starts out with a harmonica intro, taking a bit of a country angle, but the song, once it starts feels like it must have been the inspiration to the Adult Swim short Too Many Cooks, as the chorus melody for this, and the aforementioned theme song sound very similar. It again falls into the one dimensional, repetitive route, but it is just catchy enough to not wear out its welcome.
“Got Hit” has a more rocking edge to it, but is just a pleasant, toe-tapping, jangley song at its heart. These songs just sound a little flat, like they just need a little more in the verse to keep them more interesting. The bass line is fun and bouncy, and the song certainly drives along with the drums and electric guitars.
“Looking for Bird” has more of a shuffle, driving cadence, and the wah-wah guitars employed mimic the effect of sonic displacement by a passing train. This is definitely a highway driving song, also bringing to mind the open highways I imagine Australia’s rural areas to possess. The song also features a harmonica, further adding to the travelling imagery. The song is not very appealing for my tastes.
“Ready For You Now” brings back a warbley circus sound, similar to Let’s Cook, but this is more skewed. I like the pace of this song, and it has a very pleasant side to side bouncy verse. The chorus is just the title repeated a couple of times, but the alterations in the melody keep it interesting. And by the second installation of the chorus, they combined a backing call and response harmonized chorus, and then they blend the songs elements all together to finish out the song, with a nice, complete feel.

“I Didn't Mean to be Mean” sounds just like a rushed Squeeze song, or more accurately, an Elvis Costello song, since he produced this one. It is bouncy and features the Costello-esq organ. The percussion tempo is again like a travelling train, and the chorus adds to the fast toe tapping pace. The vocals can’t shift out of crooning mode, and there is no nervous, jittery feeling that this style of song typically lends itself to. It is a pretty strong song, none-the-less, and carries the running train through to the ending fade out.
“Walking on Rails” is another song you’d expect to sound like a train, and although there is a little electric guitar that mimics the sound in the beginning, the song features more of a stomping tempo, and the vocals come off sounding a little weak and sadly sentimental.
“Sad Poetry” brings back a slight country ting to the album, with a bit of a stomp-rock tempo. But once it reaches the chorus, “I don’t wanna hear any more sad poetry” it sounds exactly like Squeeze.
“The Nips are Getting Bigger” was squished onto this debut US record, since it was their first big hit (sounding a little like Phil Collins) back in 1979. It has a slight reggae vibe to it, as it is a pretty chill melody. It is only playful in its lyrics, as the rest of the song is sung in a nonchalant, insignificant manor.
“Egypt” was also a single released back in 1980. It has a multi-vocal harmonized verse, and is steady as it plods its way through the verse. It maintains the chorus of vocals into the chorus, and has the feeling of a pub rock song, with a little southern rock influence.
“Berserk Warriors” was the third single from the AU release, and was included on the US release to end the record. An echoing, warbley guitar precede the clearest, crispest vocals on the record yet. I believe this is a different singer. It sounds a little like the confidence and swagger of Nash Kato’s (from Urge Overkill) slower songs. By the time it reaches the final melody change-up, it sounds like a different song in energy and multiple vocals. It ends in an acapella hum/chant of many vocals.

“You're So Strong” starts with a warbley keyboard sound, and then the mid 80’s pop sound takes over, and this sounds like it could be an INXS song, or the Mighty Lemondrops. The chorus is very catchy and over-produced, in a stereotypical way. The falsetto sound that the vocals reach in the chorus reach Jimmy Somerville level. But this is a solid song that feels like it was fit for a film.
“Big Wheel” starts with a mechanical percussive beat, and a nasally, assured vocal. Power chords, and synthesized xylophones support the bridge. There is even a little Thomas Dolby in the delivery of the vocals. These first overproduced two tracks are a completely different band than the mix hits of their US debut. They changed very well and adapted seamlessly with the times. The harmonized echoing in response to the chorus “but I don’t wanna be your slave” repeat through the last 2 ½ minutes of the song.
“Live it Up” is their biggest hit, as featured in Crocodile Dundee. It starts with heavy synth notes, and they comes out as a synthesized-jangley, hyper-polished pop number. This sounds like it stopped being fun for the band, as it seems they, in a manner of speaking, might have sold out. The melody in the chorus is pretty catchy, though, the tone of the song is very monotone, and bored for the lyrical inspiration to “Live It Up.”
“Surf & Mall & Sex & Fun” is a dark and sinister synthesized beach bongo song. It is part Miami Vice Dance number, and part light hearted attempt to reach that coolness.
“Good Friday” shakes into existence, almost raising the volume like West End Girls, but once the singing begins, the conga line and synth xylophones create the fine line between Erasure and English Beat, which is unfortunately, not nearly as interesting as either band. But the song does emit a care free and enjoyable vibe with this song.

“Date with Destiny” is immediately urgent with the synth string alerts and bouncing bass beat. It is a little sinister, incorporating in a bit of a James Bond melody.
“Hold On” has a driving tempo, and adds a touch of a country vibe with the bass line and style of vocals. But at its heart, despite the weird electronic flute effects and other odds and ends, it is a folksy jangle pop sing along.
“Stones of the Heart” checks back in with the odd carnival style of a few songs from the first record. But the organ that creates that atmosphere in the beginning, falls into a trap of sounding like a simple, mellow regaee/ska beat. What started out interesting and promising flattened out into a wimpy, bored verse and chorus combination.
“I Just Wanna Be Happy (Drunk at a Party)” kicks right into the circular rhyming singer/songwriter story song melody. The organ again carries with it a bit of an island flair. It also features slide guitar. The song again echoes a chill, care-free vibe.
“Splashing” attacks the same tempo from a power pop base, and a different synth keyboard effect on top (can’t figure out what it reminds me of). The vocals are again that cool calm and collected sound, like Kato, or mellow like Lou Reed (a little). It is a pretty catchy song that builds without going anywhere.
“Bus Ride” is slow and has trickling percussive backing effects. Then a tiptoeing synth keyboard makes the song a bit creepier and sneaky. But it is still calm and relaxed in its delivery, like someone reserved to and ok with their lot in life. Just as the song fades out, they allow the electric guitar to wail out.

“Don't Tell Me Now” starts with a synth drum beat, and follows up with some extra synthy horns. The piano based bouncy melody gently sways right up to the chorus, which is a gentle AM radio adult contemporary pop number. It feels like what happens when old bands get back together, embrace the new technology, and write a number trying to capture their heyday. This is not a bad song, especially the hook in the chorus, but it is overproduced, cold and has nothing raw or real.
“My Door is Always Open to You” has a beatnik beginning with the snaps and bass line. The echoing vocals also give way to the underground imagery. But after the drum kit kicks in, the song livens up with shared vocals between a deeper voice and a high pitch accompaniment in the chorus. It could be the same person, but perhaps not. It has a “rocking around the Christmas tree” tempo in the instrumental bridge. But the overproduced synth effects get the best of the song.
“Put Me Back” has the same vocal production style that Phil Collins uses: echoy emotional melodies. The energy in the music saps any urgency and interest that the vocals are trying to create. It wallows in between something energetic and a quiet wispy ambient song. As the vocals declare their emotional urgency at the end, the song fades out.
“Let's Go to Paradise” could have been an adult-oriented pop hit, as it features an easy to grasp melody, is produced slickly, and fits the mid 80’s mold of slight jungle/island rhythms with a repetitive chorus. And it did reach #15 in the AU charts.
“Love Me Tender” is a standard, wavering version of the Elvis song. Vocals and guitar start it out, and stings are lightly added in the back, and then the song kicks in with drums and bouncy piano. In the instrumental, the bass picks up the vocal melody. When the vocals come back, they play around with the familiar melody, changing it up a little, but maintaining the tempo. The song seems to end, but there is an extra 30 seconds or so of acoustic guitar reprising the melody in a loving hammock at sunset way.
“The Mad King” starts out pulling out all of the tricks of the 80’s synth parade. It is almost painful to listen to. The vocals then come in, somewhat like Robyn Hitchcock, and are somewhat psychedelic in nature. But the chorus, if you could just strip away everything else in the song down to that, is a bright shining moment on this album. It is quite catchy and fun, and is so simple, that it feels like every 60’s pop song has used some derivative. The end of the song brings in a new section chanting “I am not the mad king”  almost in the round, creating the best and worst song on the first side

“He's Just No Good for You” begins with a solo vocal, which could launch the song in any direction. My first instinct was a country move, but it is a simple jangley pop song. The sax in the song sounds authentic, rather than synthesized, and the song does not divert much between verse and chorus, as they seem to meld together.
“Thinking Out Loud” enters with a synth drum kit, and the vocals are calm, deep and soothing. It is the Kato singer here. The chorus of female vocals is overrun by the warble of the guitar effect. The lead vocals remind me a little of Graham Parker too, but the song is nowhere up to his caliber of song, not even taking the production out of account.
“Stay At Home Girl” feels like an old pop song in harmonized chorus, and real instrument sound. It is a nice melody that repeats in short loops, and is quite catchy. The style of the song is quite out of place for the rest of the album, and it feels authentic, and produced to a realistic degree. There is some slide wah wah guitar giving it a country edge, but it is a breath of life into a rather dull lifeless album. It ends at a respectable length, not getting too busy or repetitive.
“Mouth to Mouth” takes the style back to soaring electronic mountain peaks and valleys. But the electro bass line bounces in, and the vocals have a nervous feel to them. Although the song is dark, it still has potential. Then the chorus kicks in and just overproduced synth effects pepper the audio, turn the song into a neon disco. This has potential to be a sold song at its root if you wipe the flashiness of it, and produce it in a much more conservative setting. It turns into a wacky song, more outlandish than the Neutron Dance.
“I'm Glad” begins with a crazy shouting vocal, and continues into the real song with a slowish, drunken pub rock melody (a variation of T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong”). Even the vocals seem as if they are going to stumble over at any moment. Just as it seems that it ends, the shouting vocals bring it back for another 30 second. Back awake from a brief pass-out. And the song then fades out for good.
“Wandering Through Heaven” ends the album with an ethereal, angelic atmospheric tone, and is followed up with a warm bed of vocals and streaming synth notes in a genuine camp fire sing-a-long. 

Stand Out Tracks:~ Ready For You Now
^ You're So Strong
*Stay At Home Girl

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