The Mint Chicks
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The Mint Chicks

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"Mint Chicks - Screens - Real Groove magazine"

On March 16 Portland's former Aucklanders The Mint Chicks release their third album Screens. Real Groove's had it a week and now feels confident in issuing a verdict...
Mon, 09 Mar 2009 by Duncan Greive

The Mint Chicks
Following the unparalleled artistic and commercial success of Crazy?Yes!Dumb?No! in 2006, the Mint Chicks made a series of moves which might have made no sense to outsiders, but mirrored perfectly the internal logic of their machine.
Firstly, when you've finally cracked the local market, won a boatload of Tuis and gotten mainstream radio play with your bizarro pop, surely it behooves you to retrench and pay back some of that faith? Instead they booked tickets to Portland, capital of the indie rock universe maybe, but around 7,000 miles away from the place which had finally, after five years figured out how to love the prickly young men.
And when the chemistry of your band is paramount, the strange impulses audible in your music now making perfect sense, speaking in unison for maybe the first time, surely then it's incumbent upon you to keep that unit together? So parting company with (and not replacing) bassist Michael Logie, often the only guy who looked like he was actively enjoying the process, that almost takes you back to square one.
Which, it turns it, is probably exactly where they want to be. Screens sounds like a brand new band making their first record. That's not to say it doesn't sound like The Mint Chicks, because there's definitely only one band on earth (specific location irrelevant) who could have made this, but it has the energy and pure new sound of a band spewing out a lifetime's worth of ideas into their first album. Which is, it barely needs pointing out, a very good thing.
The album opens with Red, White or Blue, a song which functions as something of a national anthem for their newly colonised territory, celestial harmonies floating over a thin but fierce noise-pop bed. It has that Beach Boys thread running though it, a band I've heard The Mint Chicks call out on more than one occasion, but sounds like Brian Wilson grew up on the shores of Three Mile Island rather than California. As a primer for the album, it's perfect, and one of the best sounds they've ever made.
That bleeds into 2010, one of the earliest songs from the three-piece era, with a piece of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition jacked for a staccato melody, before dissolving into a bashfully romantic pop lyric, highlighted by some spectacularly free guitar playing from Ruban Nielson, which nonetheless fails to detract from the wistful love song at its core. The 7" version from over a year ago was rougher and lacked the finesse present here, a predominantly production-based riddle which they've largely solved.
Where C?Y!D?N! sounded like a technicolour explosion, Screens is more a riot of pastels, and at first this is somewhat disorienting, even disappointing, to those expecting a repeat of the immediate thrills of its predecessor. But it's a time thing, give yours and Screens reveals its secrets, in some ways as an album purer and less manic than the one that came before it. That wistful tone found on 2010 is repeated throughout, Don't Sell Your Brain Out could be 1910 Fruitgum Company with its bubblegum vocal line, though the music is far too clanky. In some ways this is Kody Nielson's album, he actually sings more than ever, and often provides the hooks via his keyboard playing, allowing Roper and Ruban to go deeper into their robot pop, safe in the knowledge they're always tethered to the melody by Kody's expansive mood.
Singles like What A Way and Life Will Get Better Some Day provide a welcome respite from a mid-tempo which would otherwise see the songs congeal, with the latter's treated vocal as affecting as anything they've ever conjured.
There's nothing so shocking as the title track of C?Y!D?N!, and I hope that doesn't affect the commercial impact of the album, but in Life Will... they've found a song which might even outdo it for emotional impact. It closes out on a calmly reflective note, the end of an album which is not nearly so surprising as the predecessor to which it will inevitably be compared, but one which shows they've survived and thrived through their self-imposed trials, and retained the intense magnetism which drew us here in the first place.
Screens won't shock you from your apathy, but given time it proves again that the three piece Mint Chicks remain the country's benchmark for evolution and ambition, and have delivered their second truly great album.
- Duncan Greive

link: - Duncan Greive

"Mint Chicks - Screens -"

They won a pile of awards, lost a bassist, moved to Portland, took three years to record an album, regularly performed in animal costumes and started releasing their most experimental work yet.

But anyone worried The Mint Chicks were letting success get to their heads - especially on last year's creepy AutoTune-loving single release Life Will Get Better Some Day - can rest easy.

Because, on Screens, they sound more like The Mint Chicks than they ever have.

The Auckland act's third album is just as good as, if not better than, 2006's brilliant - and multiple Tui Award-winning - Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!

That's a minor miracle considering just how much pressure there was on the progressive rock trio, consisting of brothers Kody and Ruban Neilson, and drummer Paul Roper.

Screens sees the Chicks excelling in the lo-fi territory they're known for, with elements of twee '60s pop, gentle riffs and sing-along melodies coming to the fore.

If tracks like Ockham's Razor and Funeral Day were the Apocalypse, this is the after party, held in the Grey Lynn tearooms.

Screens is full of wonderfully kooky pop songs (I Can't Stop Being Foolish, Don't Sell Your Brain Out, Baby), warped rock numbers (2010, Red, White Or Blue) and brilliantly batty love songs (Sweet Janine).

Then there's the delightful Hot On Your Heels, which comes complete with cymbals, hand claps and a middle section synth freakout the Beatles would be proud of. It's pure pop perfection.

But the Chicks can still get heavy when they want to. Check out the evil instrumental vibe of Enemies, or undoubted album - and possible career - highlight What A Way, which pairs a synth-fuelled feedback blitz with Neilson's lazy "la-la-laa-laa" drawl.

Start shining those Tui Awards. We could have another clean sweep on our hands.

link: - Chris Shulz

"Mint Chicks - Screens - New Zealand Herald"

Rating: * * * *

There has always been more than a dash of arsenic laced through the Mint Chicks' sherbet-flavoured pop. And it may not seem like it at first but the Portland-based Auckland trio have upped the dose of poison on their third album, Screens.

It's a record of extremes, with the throwaway catchiness of I Can't Stop Being Foolish and Don't Sell Your Brain Out, Baby off set by the warped and mangled stylings of What A Way and Enemies. And in between there's the Clean on P jaunt of the title track.

Yet songwriting brothers Kody and Ruban Nielson manage to make the album coast along on a pure pop rock plane (something they call "troublegum"). And it's all underlined by the Nielsons' devilish and wry sentiment, with deadpan stories - this time round often told through fruity vocal processors - about being caged up, haunted by demons, and having a noose around your neck.

At around 30 minutes it's over pretty quickly, and because it includes almost intentionally disposable gems like I Can't Stop Being Foolish, it doesn't have the substance of 2006's Crazy?Yes!Dumb?No!, which makes you wonder whether it has the same durability as that classic Kiwi album. One friend said he's listened to it so much in the car he sometimes feels like throwing it out of the window.

Then again, it's near impossible not to enjoy the agitating delights of Enemies and Life Will Get Better Some Day - the last and best tracks - with hand-wringing and gold teeth-flashing glee. Screens is addictive and deliciously obnoxious.

Scott Kara

link: - Scott Kara


Whirlwind Heat/Mint Chicks split 7" (Flying Nun/Third Man Records)
Octagon Octagon Octagon EP (Flying Nun)
Blue Team Go! 7" (Fierce Panda)
Anti-tiger (Flying Nun)
F**k the Golden Youth (Flying Nun)
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! (Flying Nun)
Screens (Flying Nun)

mp3 streaming at:



Currently at a loss for words...