By Nicky – August 30, 2011
And they truly were spoilt. It seems almost impossible to imagine this same scene today, with so few venues offering live music; but more astoundingly to have the likes of The Mentals with their bright poppy sound and stage presence- on a Monday night! Unheard of today with all the rules and regulations regarding noise and so on… And the fact that the pool table was being used as a stage to, ‘free up floor space’ as recorded in some pieces on the Mentals; is it telling us it was a small venue or that there was a large crowd? Would you go and see a band on a Monday night? Or are you too used to hunkering down day after day waiting for the weekend…waiting for the music… And if it feels like this for me, then I cannot even begin to imagine the irritation this must cause both budding and stalwart musicians alike! Greedy concurs,“It is really frustrating for young musicians and to see such talent and energy under-utilised. I think it probably relies on people being a bit DIY with it in terms of playing parties, charity shows and educating the odd publican here and there. Everything is so regulated these days it is so hard to get away with being spontaneous. Maybe its time for rock to return to the milk bars of the early 60s. The McDonalds circuit perhaps?”
Glocalized Jamm’n at McDonald’s; does it come with a free PA? Shaker fries, ahmmm I mean, Mixer too perhaps? I appreciate the irony in Greedy’s words- it’s exactly this type of quirky humour that makes the Mentals great. Greedy suggests that budding song-writers and bands out there who yearn to achieve the success, longevity and notoriety akin to that which the Mentals have acquired, should embrace a similar approach; “Do it for fun, for ego and for other people. While you make your own luck worrying about it will not make it happen. Create everything and it will be yours to share. Write songs and if it’s not your thing encourage others to write. The cover versions you select create a setting for your originals. It’s about people getting on together and the rest is up to fate.”
For the Mentals, as evidenced through their earlier more formative years, there was a strong presence and connection to ‘creation’ and ‘sharing’, via art and the art scene. This philosophy propagated numerous Art Exhibitions opened by such notorieties as Paul Keating (1992) and Gough Whitlam (1997). Their artworks have also been purchased by prominent entities Elton John and famed Australian artist Patrick White to name but a few. “Being an art school band playing to an art school crowd we took great pains to be as unserious and unarty as possible. Reg was cross-pollinating between his art and music but I think he was the only one. We had old art school connections who contributed greatly to our covers and clips. I think our exhibitions were mainly to distract us from our continually heavy touring schedule at that time.”
Art became more than a distraction for some members, eventually resulting in bass player and songwriter Peter O’Doherty leaving the band to become a full-time artist in 1999, and in 2000 Reg Mombassa following suit. By 2005 a new line up was born and the Mentals released “Plucked”- containing acoustic versions of familiar Mentals tunes. This recording session was the impetus for the band to record a new album, as Greedy explains.“It takes longer to record if you are doing it for yourselves and we were delighted when Warners offered to release Tents Up just after our Essential as Anything greatest hits CD/DVD. We had to sandwich writing, recording, mixing etc… between a reasonably full touring schedule.”
Four years later and there was another change for The Mentals; in 2009 their entire back catalogue became available for digital download on iTunes.“I love itunes. I didn’t understand it for years but now I’m onto it. It’s like going to Grace Bros and buying the latest single for $1 back in 1970. I think it’s great for hit singles and for hunting down your musical past. My gripe is they don’t have “New King Jack” by Sekret Sekret. I don’t know if albums will continue to be as important as they were because of the iTunes format. Vinyl sounds better and I love the 1958 Humber Super Snipe but that doesn’t mean they’re practical today.”
What’s that you ask? What’s a 1958 Humber Super Snipe? Yes it’s a car which was manufactured until 1967, with four-cylinders and a 2.6 litre, 2,651 cc, six-cylinder overhead-valve engine- perhaps not too practical in today’s environment? Are you being sarcastic Mr Smith? What’s with the practicality? It’s not even about vinyl necessarily sounding better either- its just that it has a certain presence that is unlike digital music; it’s really hard to play vinyl in the car, or whilst walking down the street….
During the 1980’s The Mentals also toured quite extensively overseas- visiting the US, Canada, UK, Holland, Spain and Italy; winning the coveted Telegatto Award in Italy. “We had chart success in Canada and touring was easy there but as soon as we crossed the border at Niagara Falls into the US everything changed. It must be the Commonwealth sense of humour. The Yanks didn’t quite get us. We supported Men At Work and Robert Palmer there but never broke through. Europe was different again with the success of Live It Up in the UK Germany and Scandinavia. While we did TV in Spain and Italy we didn’t really translate for the Latin audience though the food was unbelievable.”
And there it is again, the reason for Andrew Greedy’s Smith’s pseudonym raises its head – apparently he has an insatiable appetite. And it appears that this appetite is not limited to food and art and music in general but also to Australian music specifically such as The Dynamic Hypnotics, The Exponents (NZ) and Vtribe: “Great music that could only come from this part of the world.”
So come get a piece of Australian New Wave Pop when Mental as Anything party at Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club this Saturday night 3rd of September. If you are too young to remember or be part of that Mentals feeling, then why not come down and get a taste of Australia for yourself; Live it up, why don’t you?
Original article: http://heltersmelter.com/2011/08/30/mental_as_anything/