Nothing rubs the fans of a band the wrong way more than a cocky and pretentious attitude. The most respected musicians are often those that are humble and well-grounded; we can relate to them, we can respect them. Somewhere between Octagon, Octagon, Octagon
and F**k the Golden Youth
, The Mint Chicks’ wheels started coming off. As a band, they certainly did have reason to be pleased with themselves after the release of their two promising EP’s Octagon, Octagon, Octagon
. Yet as news of overblown and pretentious live shows started coming in, along with reports of abducted reporters and rumours of lead vocalist Kody Nielson suffering from an ever-inflating ego, The Mint Chicks transformed from up-and-coming darlings to overrated pricks. For many, the production of F**k The Golden Youth
was the last straw. Although by no means a bad album, F**k The Golden Youth’s
poor production quality felt utterly unwarranted, especially when their first two EPs were immaculately presented. It ultimately fell short of what everyone expected; it was not good Kiwi music.
Since F**k The Golden Youth
, The Minties seem to have gone about their business without all the scrutiny that they received in the past. The antics of their live shows have not ceased, and although a few poor unlucky souls have suffered concussions and scars from falling debris in the St. James Theatre, their live shows are love-hate affairs. Those that experience them live will no doubt love it; those who hear about their antics will probably dismiss it as pointless.
The sound of The Mint Chicks has always been slightly erratic in the past. The tonality of their music has been thin, with sharp piercing edges. Their previous works have been less like a three course dinner, and more like a bag full of jaw-breaking candies. It is by no means a criticism, especially considering the delicious Indie-Pop hooks contained within their bags of lollies. But with Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
comes a harsh punk rationality that has always been present, yet never let loose until now.
The Minties themselves acknowledge this evolvement of sound, describing Kody Nielson’s voice as formerly a “disaffected, bratty screech.” They certainly are correct in proclaiming a smoother vocal performance from Kody, as is quite obvious on songs such as Welcome To Nowhere
and Sleeping During the Day
. His voice feels much more controlled than on their previous works. His vocal affection varies greatly from song to song, sometimes low-pitched smooth croons, and yet at times throaty chants. Although the vocals vary quite substantially from song to song, it is always with purpose. It is a skill that only comes with experience in the music industry, yet with only one full album under his belt, he seems to always know the right direction for each song. When the beat stutters and jerks in If My Arm was a Mic Stand
, Kody’s voice becomes equally angular and choppy. In Ammie
his voice slows down and becomes smoother, much like the unaggressive rhythm. The positive effect of Kody’s vocal maturity does not greatly improve the album, but for those that felt F**k The Golden Youth
needed a more defined direction: the madness of Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
is justified with clear intent.
Guitarist Ruban Nielson hasn’t been left behind with all this change afoot, with Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
we see a dramatic change in tone and structure of his guitar work. In past releases, the tone of the guitar has often been quite high pitched, choppy and erratic like the vocals. Yet with Ockham's Razor
the powerful distorted guitar brings about a sound that contradicts all the Minties music to date. The guitar never lets up in Ockham’s Razor
bringing about fury at a constant eardrum blowing pace. When the vocals and guitar of the Nielson brothers come together, a strong aggressive harmony is created.
Thankfully however, this new direction isn’t maintained throughout the album. There is no lack of variety in the album, some tracks follow simple patterns, others head for unexplored territory. 100 Minutes of Silence
for example starts out with a long piano solo, before Kody’s voice floats in shifting between levels formlessly. The instruments stay floating softly throughout like something sampled from St. Germain
; that is, until the music explodes into an ejaculating fury of noise. Contorting distortion rips the silken ambience apart, with a sudden shift to aggressive noise corrupting the tranquility, creating great contrast instantaneously. In the past The Minties have used abrupt changes of direction, yet at times these transitions felt jerky and erratic. In Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
however these sudden jumps in sound feel well-timed and immaculately constructed. It is as if The Minties have realized where they succeeded in songs such as Anti-Tiger
, Opium of the People
and Post No Bills
; then held that same standard throughout an entire album.
Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
easily beats F**k The Golden Youth
for the title of ‘Most Consistent.’ It is a steadily good album, yet sadly it lacks a magical little gem. There are a number of little anthems with a distinctive kiwi feeling and killer hooks, yet none shine out as much as their magnificent morsels of the past. Songs such as Ockham's Razor
, Walking off a Cliff Again
and You're Just as Confused As I Am
all deliver little knock out blows of their own. As charming as they are, they don’t quite pack the same punch as The Minties have produced in the past. They’ll keep you smiling all day long, but they’ll never leave you in ecstasy.
Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can move forward. It could be argued that both F**k The Golden Youth
and Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
have been backward steps from their original EPs. F**k The Golden Youth
fell backwards over its own pretentious ego. After picking themselves off the ground, The Minties have taken a controlled step back with Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
; a step taken to gain perspective. It is unlikely that this album will stand as one of their finest at the end of their musical career. Yet its impact on the path of their musical career should not be forgotten. In every aspect of the album, a newfound maturity can be felt. Every vocal affection seems to have a purpose, every drum roll seems to fit to the melody, and every movement of sound seems well-timed and well-constructed.
Rather than fall into a generic pattern of success, their maturity has developed to a stage where their creativity has become unharnessed. They have branched out their sound, touching on harsh sounds in Funeral Day
and soft silken tones in songs such as 100 Minutes of Silence
. There may not be any great reward reaped from this mature new direction. The future though looks bright for The Minties, and thanks to Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
they can once again be considered a young band on the rise; and perhaps more importantly, a band without an insuppressible ego. The Mint Chicks have regained their sense of direction, and as such Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!
offers an exhilarating and addictive little ride: one that should not be ignored by the world outside New Zealand.