First things first: Starlight Mints do not sound like the Flaming Lips. Yes, both bands beam an oddness only Norman, Oklahomans could conjure. Yes, SM's "The Bandit" (from the 2000 album The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of) could have come from Wayne Coyne's "Jelly"-era songbook. But there the comparisons end.
And a whole brave new world begins, one at war with itself. Think the Banana Splits poisoned by Jellyfish, the Brady Kids brawling with the Amboy Dukes, the Archies on shrooms, Spike Jonze chambered as a quartet. Then throw out all of those thoughts.
This is what AM radio should sound like (and if the surrealists had fully succeeded, it would) — catchy, trippy, flippant, and keen, fair and decidedly unsquare.
Take the tracks of last year's Drowaton, which came out on Barsuk, home of indie heavies such as Mates of State, Rilo Kiley, and Nada Surf. "Rhino Stomp" sounds like something Mancini might have swung if he were forced to rise up in a dust bowl. "Eyes of the Night" could be Grandpa Munster's theme song, had he been birthed alongside Tristan Tzara. "Pearls (Submarine #2)" is like Psychedelic 101 revisited — under water. It's "Inside of Me," though, that really sweetens the stir. Sure, the song is the closest the Mints get to semistraight power pop, but even here the lyrics are twisted into some pretzel logic for smart alecks unafraid to wear heart-shape sleeves.
Like way-back-in-the-day bands such as Incredible String and Bonzo Dog, the Mints render their marvels in whatever instruments seem nearest. But where the former "followed the Tarot to Fez" and returned bearing ouds and flutes, the Mints whack away with Western orchestrations and what the Dog dudes called "various contraptions." Whether the Mints titled "Rhino Stomp" after Bonzo Dog saxophonist Rodney "Rhino" Desborough Slate is anyone's guess; it might just be a zoo-some nod to the oddball popists at Elephant 6. After all, any one of the Mints' intergalactic jungle stomps could have come from that defunct collective's core — yet Starlight Mints shine in a beam all their own. Get lit. — John Hood