CD Review of Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! by The Mint Chicks
Recommended if you like
Check Engine, Owls, The Strokes
Label
Milan Records
The Mint Chicks:
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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P
erhaps all you indieheads out there will recall at the beginning of this new (nearly old) decade a little “craze” that the kids liked to call “math rock.” The idea of math rock was not so original; basically, the bands in said genre constructed their little pop tunes around weird, changing time signatures and fucked up chords that no one really liked. To experience a math rock band at its peak was basically akin to having a bad fit of epilepsy coupled with schizophrenia. Just as soon as you were getting into a tune, it would shift directions maybe three more times within the next minute. Somehow, there were fans for this sort of thing, but in my mind the whole thing died out around 2001, pretty much the same time it seemed to be flowering.

So this band the Mint Chicks, hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, sort of have that weird math rock vibe to them without going all the way into the deep end. Think of their sound as math rock lite with a hefty dose of late ‘70s UK New Wave thrown in. In theory, that’s really not all that bad. The Chicks certainly have a way with making one recall the jittery skinny tie days of yore more often than not. Only thing is, that have this propensity to want to “experiment” and also do a bit of a garage rock thing that gets in the way of the good grooves.

The opening song, “Ockham’s Razor,” is forgettable off the bat, sounding like it was recorded in a tin can and raging around like a million other songs you’ve heard before. However, “This Is Your Last Chance to Be Famous, My Love” has a sound as pretentious as its title, with springy rhythms doing that whole old “angular” thing with the guitar chords. The band then decides to destroy any semblance of something good by shifting amongst fuzzed-out guitar licks, the main (annoying) jackhammer riff, and a whole lot of controlled yet seemingly mindless fretboard wandering.

Somehow, the Mint Chicks manage to pull off two enjoyable pop tunes with “Welcome to Nowhere” and “You’re Just as Confused as I Am.” Both of these songs sound like retro-UK pop punk trash at its finest. Go back to 1978 and relive the moment (if you were there to begin with, that is). “Walking off a Cliff Again” isn’t too shabby either; the Strokes-ish guitars are frankly old sounding by this time, but the Chicks make sure to throw in some more of that jagged guitar goofiness to break things up just so you remember that no one’s supposed to have a 100% easy time with any of this.

“Funeral Day” seems like it could be one of those “good” experimental pop tunes if only the crappy production that makes all these songs ultimately sound the same wasn’t around to fuck things over. And when “She’s Back on Crack” rolls around, it sounds like the Chicks have done nothing but simply go back and completely rip off every garage band that was around seven years ago. It sounds sort of like the Ramones playing live when they were first starting, pre-debut album, and that’s not really the best thing in the world.

Ultimately, the Mint Chicks have one haphazard album on their hands here. The pop stuff seems like it would be really good if they didn’t have to get all “arty” on everyone’s asses. The experimental side of the band has been heard before by other groups, but that doesn’t mean that it, too, couldn’t be better than it is. Not that it all really makes much difference in the end. Bands such as these are truly only in it to groove along to their own muse, so that’s worth a little something, even if it doesn’t produce the most enjoyable music.

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