Mental As Anything's third album is a definite improvement over their previous Espresso Bongo
The bouncy opener "Too Many Times" makes it clear straight away that we're in for a much more charming, engaging listen this time round, even though the band's taste for biting and at times bitter satire is still evident.
Martin Plaza dominates this, especially on the first half. The songs are written by various band members, but he handles vocals on all of them, while there is more variation of vocalists on the second side.
The first half is also the best, highlighted by the classic Plaza single "If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?", Peter O'Doherty's typically haunting "Berserk Warriors", and Plaza's "Let's Cook", the latter showing how much can be done even with little lyrical content.
The album's second half can't quite match the first, but "Looking for Bird" (unusually, a combined writing effort, including drummer Wayne Delisle, but sung by Greedy Smith, who did not take part in its composition) is decent, as is Reg Mombassa's "Chemical Travel".
Speaking of Smith, he has one song of his own which he sings, called "Sad Poetry", and it's right at the end (except for the pointless instrumental bit afterwards). He did actually write the opening piece too (which I hadn't noticed at first, as it sounds more like a Plaza number), but there's something kind of special about Greedy both composing and handling vocals. Waiting so long to hear that on a Mentals album is pretty tough, and it's a rather melancholy piece which isn't his best, but it's still strangely affecting in its modest kind of way.
Overall, Cats & Dogs
is one of Mental As Anything's best releases. It's catchy, simple, complex, thoughtful, and disarming. It's the work of a band doing what it does best. Rated:
by Reviewer: The Doctor