The Australian band Mental As Anything straddle the boundary between being 'serious' musicians and a tongue-in-cheek novelty act, a rather curious spot to occupy in the musical spectrum.
That's perfectly encapsulated in their most well-known song, the hit single "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too" - a song that was both genuinely poignant but also endowed with a wry sense of humour, as reflected in the title.
It's tricky, being a 'goodtime' band that on the one hand aims to be light-hearted and good-humoured, but also aspires to be taken seriously as musicians. Happily, this album demonstrates that Mental As Anything are quite adept at such a balancing act.
For whilst the songs here all have a rather melancholic tone lyrically speaking, they are presented in a distinctly jaunty manner, in part due to the uptempo dance rhythms, but mainly thanks to the rather cheesy Farfisa-style organ or synth lines, that lend the album the air of a funfair or circus. That, combined with the droll irony of the band's lyrics, is the fusion that generates Mental As Anything's bittersweet music.
There's a certain amount of cheeky parody going on here too. The 5 star opener "You're So Strong" has a chorus that is a dead ringer for Fine Young Cannibals, the 4 star "Big Wheel" is reminiscent of electro-pop bands like Blancmange or Reflex, and the 5½ star "Date With Destiny" has an arrangement that brings to mind The Associates ... all bands that were contemporaries of Mental As Anything.
But Mental As Anything certainly aren't copyists, on this album they sit right on the edge of the mid-80's synth-pop scene, but keeping one eye on non-genre mainstream pop, thus they completely lack the pretensions that sub-genre's like pure electro-pop often exhibit. For what was after all originally just a bunch of bored art students clowning around, they've proved to be remarkably durable, and have produced some fine songs along the way. Rated:
by Reviewer: bluemoon