Sound — 9
Based in Dunedin, Flying Nun Records has offered some much needed refuge for bands like the Clean, the Verlaines, the Chills and the Bats, who all went on to achieve underground success, not only in New Zealand but in Australia and the UK too. Flying Nun also nurtured many bands into a fine oiled machine before they changed to major label. Bands such as the D4 and Head like a Hole have toured with Motorhead, The White Stripes, the Dirtbombs and MC5 plus many more. But The Mint Chicks never seemed to achieve any status in the industry and were merely only a blip on the radar for most record labels in 2004. Having released two shockingly refreshing EP's ('Octagon, Octagon, Octagon' and 'Anti-Tiger'), that combined insanely catchy power-pop lyrics and heavy post-punk riffage, the 'Chicks certainly tossed up a stir and almost certain fame was on the horizon for the Nun-housed four-piece. This was the cue to release their debut album and 'F--k The Golden Youth' dawned upon the more musically adventurous lads and ladies of New Zealand. To put it frankly, the album was canned. It was like they had glimpsed success and ran the other way. There was nothing wrong with the songs themselves but vocalist Kody's writing was lacklustre and childish, often taking the name for the song from the first line of lyrics, and on the surface, the album was fineeven good but they had yet to realise their potential. Even Ruban's black and white artwork seemed to shy people away from the record, thinking the sound was monochromatic, like the cover, rather than the usually bursting-with-vibrant-colour of 'Octagon...'and 'Anti-Tiger'. After the initial reviews, the Mint Chicks (Kody Nielson-Vocals, Ruban Nielson-Guitar, Paul Roper-Drums and Michael Logie-Bass) went into overdrive, going into hiding, alienating everyone by being total prats, not playing high-profile shows like the 2005 Vodafone Music Awards, and arrogantly avoiding interviews. Even when they did do the odd interview, the journalist for Rip It Up magazine was made to print a story that convinced the reader that the interviewer had to be blindfolded and driven to a 'secret location' to ask questions of the Brothers Nielson, and even then the answers were never straight. But they grew up and learnt from their mistakes for the new album. Kody's writing is now clear and oozing with teenage romance, Ruban's riffs have become faster and bar chords are no longer his only skill, the drums, provided by Paul, are swift and deadly with Michael's bass bringing up an ever grooving rear. Ruban and Kody's father Chris Nielson produced Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! with a more pop style of recording in mind and with a cleaner sound required, the lads shacked up in Kody's basement for eight months(rather than the two weeks it took to make 'F--k The Golden Youth') and experimented freely with their instruments.
Lyrics — 9
A haunting synth sound fills the speakers for 'Ockham's Razor' (a metaphor for using the only weapon you have: the truth) before crashing into the fray with a charging guitar. Kody joins in and the pop style of production is instantly apparent with Kody's voice shining through the mix. Massive, swarming vocal hooks are the key in the opening tracks and 'This Is Your Last Chance to Be Famous, My Love' shows off the bands ability to have a burning instrumental base to build the vocals on. New single 'Welcome to Nowhere' is a simple song on the first listen but quickly becomes more musically complex as it storms on. Kody sings the most honest love-lyric ever: I would like to spend some time in isolation with you. Track 4 seems to throw all the band members' abilities together in a blender and 'You're Just as Confused as I am' is spat out the other end. 'Walking Off A Cliff Again' sounds similar to the title track from the old album but the ending sports a riff with an almost funny background sample of a crowd cheering. The writing is not as ducking and dodging as the previous record, trading in lyrics about real things and situations rather than dealing in surrealist topics like 'You're Bored Because You're Boring' off 'F--k The Golden Youth'. 'If My Arm Was a Mic Stand, Would You Hold My Hand? ' and 'Don't Turn Me On Just to Turn On Me' both carry through the double meaning in Kody's lyrics, started in 'You're Bored Because...' 'Funeral Day' and 'Real Friends' could both be easy second singles with very pop/rock choruses'. 'She's Back On Crack' is like trying to teach and old band new tricks, sounding like an up-to-date version of some of the more commercially viable songs from the earlier EP's. '100 Minutes Of Silence' is a slow, mournful track that could easily soundtrack a film-noir movie like 2005's Brick. 'Ammie' is an awesome song, bordering on jazz and leaking an almost apologetic lyrical quality. 'Sleeping During the Day' is one hell of a pure-pop song, often getting airplay on Kiwi Fm. The title track on the album is so important and so good that it almost deserves it's own paragraph. A ratcheting drum fill opens 'Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!' that gives to almost AC/DC sounding guitar chords and the lyric that is the key to understanding the whole album: Come on girl just come around/I may be crazy but I'm not dumb and the soft breakdown makes you want to dance with the girl or guy of your dreams and listen to Kody utter his most honest words yet, If I ever told you I was not afraid/I would be lying. This is the standout track on the album and the energy it produces live is immense, let alone on the album.
Overall Impression — 9
The Mint Chicks are a force to reckon with live and with the addition of this new record to their repertoire, it will certainly make their show a must-see. Although the songs are short, the album is very long and many of the songs towards the end outstay their welcome. They seemed bent on creating a pop record and they have certainly achieved that, but some more arty moments, like the start of 'If My Arm Was a Mic Stand', wouldn't have done any harm. This production is clean and perhaps too clean for artpunk band of such high standards, but the fact that the pop melody is such an important factor in the sound the production is excused from being too intrusive in enjoying the record.