The Mentals, Oh Well

The Mentals, Oh Well

Oh, good grief. Where do I start? Okay, well, this is a three-piece outfit from Austin (one demerit there) led by a guy named Steve Tobin (guitarist, singer) along with a thudding (and now departed from the band) rhythm section. The liner notes and material on the band/Tobin’s website tell the unfortunate story of Tobin’s near-fatal car accident, after which he had to have reconstructive surgery on his left arm; the present album is, therefore, a clutch of pre-accident sessions from 1998. Stacking the deck even further against the Mentals was the fact that Tobin insisted on doing everything in one take, on a 4-track recorder, with not terribly spiffy microphones — something you should only do if your band is really good, but I’ll get to that.

Aside from all of this, the only thing you need to know about this record is that Tobin likes Nirvana — a lot. This is a problem. “Down” replicates the riff of “Dive”; the irresponsibly titled “Alien Sex Fiend” is “Breed” minus the killer chorus; “Numb” sounds musically too much like “Dumb,” natch; and on and on. Tobin uncannily nails down the weird hillbilly bawl that Kurt developed after In Utero; even the damn title of the album rips off Nevermind. Endless strummy ballad-like things clutter this CD, like the lazy, wounded cow bellowing of “Virgin Mary” and “Abyss”; the biggest sin he commits, I feel, is cracking the four-minute barrier on nearly all the songs. The best things I can say about it are that the relatively short “Without A Care” is almost like Nine Below Zero in its punky, major-chord weightlessness, the drummer was actually rather on point and knew how to support the shakier points in the songs with nifty, filigreed fills, and if I kinda forget what I’m listening to, I can gull myself into thinking that I’m listening to anything off of the Outcesticide boots — at best, Tobin approaches the level of those early songs like “Pen Cap Chew,” “Opinion,” or “Marigold.” If you think that sounds like praise to you, this is the record for you; if not, then you could safely skip it.

(4-Track Recordings -- P.O. Box 4450, Austin, TX. 78765-4450; http://www.4-track-recordings.4t.com/; The Mentals -- http://www.thementals.com/)
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Review by . Review posted Saturday, October 1st, 2005. Filed under Reviews.

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