The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mental As Anything

12-5-07 Mental As Anything

(re-run from Aug. ’02)


465040.2 CD 1983 13 TRKS

The Mentals are a fine Australian band, still going after all these years. “Creatures Of Leisure” (their 4th LP) wasn’t the LP that won me over – that was “Fundamental” (and their wonderful video clip compilation “Monumental As Anything”). Even though this is a band of singer / songwriters, a few of the Mentals members are exceptionally gifted visual artists as well (notably Reg Mombassa) – which explains why the videos for the 3 singles from “Creatures…” are equally as memorable as the songs themselves. Those songs were “Brain Brain”, “Spirit Got Lost” (great animation!) and “Close Again” (three of their more mellow hits).

This album even got a U.S. release (on A&M), but I think A&M monkey’d with the track listing (and maybe even the sound?) – I can’t tell you for certain, I foolishly got rid of my LP (probably an Australian original copy) when I got the 1989 CBS CD. My head just wasn’t screwed on properly in those days! The CD re-issue reproduced ONLY the front cover of the LP (again, in postage stamp-sized dimensions) and no information other than the producers names (and the songwriter names under the song titles). Well, one nice thing is that I can probably easily find a $1 LP of this, this coming weekend! (’07: I did!)

A ‘typical’ 80’s album this is not. The Mentals were cranking them out with such regularity that they were becoming almost ‘too professional’ – they were already way past their earlier efforts. The emphasis on “Creatures Of Leisure” was songwriting. They were working with Australian superstar producers Bruce Brown and Russell Dunlop, so the sound is slick – if a bit shallow (on the CD I have – maybe the LP sounds better?). I could swear I even hear a mellotron on “Not Enough”!

I hope I do not appear critical of this album or of Mental As Anything. Their next album, “Fundamental” (1985), would turn me into a hardcore Mentals fan.

It’s just…In the early 1980’s, I was mostly enthusiastic about artists from New Zealand – the Australian artist releases of those (early early 80’s) years just weren’t as charming to me as the Kiwis, so I didn’t give Mental As Anything their full due until about 1985 or so. Sadly, I never got to see them live – if they played L.A., I was out of town. When I went to Melbourne in 1987, they weren’t in evidence.

FYI – the ‘solo’ efforts from Mental As Anything (notably Dog Trumpet) are also highly entertaining. Check ‘em out!

Mental As Anything are welcome to come and play live in Los Angeles – I would even walk across the street / drive across town to see it!

2007 addendum: Don’t forget the solo albums from Greedy Smith and Martin Plaza!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just checking up on the Mentals, turns out they still exist as a touring and recording entity, although I am unsure of their output. Youtube has a clip from last June of them playing "Live It Up" on Ozzy TV. It looks like most of the old guys are still hinging in The only one I am sure is out of the group is Reg Mombassa. He is doing his Art, as well as a duo act called Dog Trumpet with his brother. Just bought one of Reg's Mambo shirts from Ebay, stole it at $9.99. If I go to Melbourne in january, I will comb the thrift shops for more. Wonder if there is a music scene of any value in Melbourne these days...

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Warren said...

That last comment was from me, BTW...

2:39 PM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I understand that many classic Aussie groups re-form and tour. And Aussie bands are usually quite good, irrespective if you like them or not. I have some more recent MAA CD's, but I think Reg is still in the band on 'em. I'll have to check.

5:36 PM  

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