Album Review: The Mint Chicks – Screens

The Mint Chicks


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May is New Zealand Music Month, and what better time to review the latest release by local darlings of troublegum-infused noiserock, The Mint Chicks?

Following on from prior releases Fuck The Golden Youth and the critically acclaimed Crazy?  Yes!  Dumb?  No!, the Auckland boys decided it was time to relocate; planning their onslaught from a new base of operations.  Upon taking flight, the kiwis settled in Portland (What is it about this part of the world that’s so alluring?) to record the new album, mixing it in four separate studios under the tutelage of Jacob Portrait and in the wake of such bands as The Dandy Warhols, The Shins and Modest Mouse.

Listening to Screens is a little like joining the circus, which is not an inaccurate comparision if you’ve ever seen the trio live – vocalist Kody Neilson is infamous for jumping off of PA stacks, dangling upside down three or four stories off the ground, and engaging in other death-defying acts – never missing a beat during such a display.  When supporting YYY in 2006, their set was so loud it caused part of the ceiling to crumble, injuring concert goers.

Screens is a step back from Crazy?  Yes!  Dumb?  No! – the band lighten things up a bit, and embrace a less grungy, lo-fi sound without fear.  By no means does this reduce them to an acoustic trio – the resulting sound is bouncy and disjointed, yet strangely catchy.

Guitarist Ruban Neilsen deadpans, “We made this record for creepy teenaged girls with one glass eye…”.  Indeed, the driving force behind this thirty-minute album seems to be some sort of vocoder-wielding mecharobot, spazzing about in a schizophrenic mess.  It’s a carnival of curiosities, from the ‘lalalalala’-ing of the hazy ‘What A Way’, to the highly distorted dancetrack which gives the album its name.

‘Enemies’ is a glorious, thundering track, and clocking in at 2.53 is one of the longest on the album.  ‘Sweet Janine’ is an irresistible pop ditty, fuelled by playful synths and the earnest tugs of pliant heartstrings.  The inevitable handclaps are unleashed on ‘Don’t Sell Your Brains Out, Baby’, a twisting work of demented pop-rock.  The carousel may get a little dizzying at times, but the boys have made a valiant effort in expanding their sound.  Ka pai!

The band are currently playing a series of gigs in Portland – here’s hoping they’ll stop by our way soon.

Screens is out now on Flying Nun Records.

Nicky Andrews


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