Starlight Mints: Drowaton

Starlight Mints
Drowaton
Barsuk

Like fellow Oklahomans Garth Brooks and Color Me Badd, the Starlight Mints do not sound like the Flaming Lips. But the Mints still have to weather the comparison, even though their cartoonish take on psychedelia has them more closely resembling an Elephant 6 fringe band. Sure, both of these Okie groups are easily classified as oddball indie pop, but while the Lips write sweeping epics that ring with triumphant flamboyance, the Mints are more sonically restless. Like their two previous full-lengths, Drowaton (that's "not a word" backward) is superficially playful, namedropping as many animals as Aesop, while the bubblegum tunes take dark turns, as if the Archies got lost deep in the Grimm brothers' woods.

"Pumpkin" opens the album with some off-kilter tra-la-las and Allan Vest singing in his girliest falsetto. "Our love was nearly something like a pumpkin," he says, though it's unclear whether that means the romance goes through some sort of disappointing transformation at midnight or gets easier to smash with age. Either way, pumpkin love—not so good. "Rhino Stomp," an instrumental of galumphing cellos and shivering violins, and the creeping monster bop of "Eyes of the Night" could score a decent live-action Scooby Doo movie should anyone ever decide to make one. The back-and-forth of whistled waltz and '60s dance-floor shuffle on "Torts" delve into the nation's obsession with litigation, particularly where religion is involved ("Monkey bought a church/Jesus called it Earth/There's no one else to blame").

Rarely the social commentator, Vest returns to classic storytelling with a Pandora's box-type tale instigated by a meddling sister. "Seventeen Devils" introduces one of the group's not-so-secret ingredients for instant quirk—layers of strings that flirt with exotic scales, bending and lurching like so many rubber-legged sailors. In the allegorical sing-along, the hero fears losing his memories to a pack of fleeing demons. "All he ever wanted was the key to everything," sings Vest, giving voice to a desire so monumental and at the same time so ordinary and human, it would make Wayne Coyne jealous.

 
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