Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The Starlight Mints don't make you think about pillows or hotel housekeepers. Oh no, the Norman, Oklahoma band makes you think of creepy crawlies and feel as if your arms and legs were made out of water moccasins, slippery and demented creatures that aren't meant to be making up legs and arms. They're supposed to be in the invisible lakes and ponds and rivers, stirring up their squirming trouble elsewhere. These snakes are supposed to be in the thick grasses, just lurking and waiting to lunge out at an ankle and slither up next to a sole, letting its thick-muscled side haunches graze against the leather side of the shoe so that it's almost skin-on-skin, through sock and scales. So, there are the snake feels and then there's the punching and pulsating, indelible groove of the dance floor, major dance sounds circa the 80s that make the snakes - aka your arms and legs as they now exist - spazz completely out. Lead singer and songwriter Allen Vest writes incredibly bizarre and trippy lyrics, but they all still seem to promote wild movements and jittering actions in the best possible way. The band's latest album "Change Remains" has numerous songs whose intros sound as if they could be the opening credits music for such dated Michael J. Fox films like "The Secret of My Success" or "Bright Lights, Big City," and then Vest begins singing about reaching up and pulling your eyes out. He has a demonic tendency, and an obvious sick sense of humor, or perhaps just a sense of humor that goes through a dark, haunted house maze, before arriving at the outbound, side-splitting laughter that it was looking for all along. He's got an eye for the shapes of people - their sizes, their peculiarities, their figures - and he gets into that, the skinny girls and the many dirty fingers, the thin faces as if there are aliens running around the yard as these springy and sometimes levitating rock and roll songs come at us. He finds the oddest details illuminating and then rolls rampant on them, twisting them into strange landscaping that makes it all feel and sound utterly different. He sings about deriving his power from a simple machine in "Power Bleed," a machine with furry handles and suddenly there's a pleasurable blackout happening, a claw swooping in to do some party damage and his further funky words are like the hopped up, carelessly drunken words of younger Malkmus. There are sax parts and tripwires and other oddities like them all over the album, holding all of the ass-shaking-ness together, making it a cohesive, albeit strange and elliptical sort of an adventure. It feels like it's a space odyssey of sorts, are if there are realms and galaxies that need be passed through and travel through them is done at weird angles. Vest sings about smelling the blood of a strangulation and it's a startling thing to think about and we're left to wonder if that's a turn on or a point of repulsion, that this type of blood - or the smell it gives on in this circumstance - is recognizable, even if it is in lyric. There are words about paralysis, which isn't amusing, but they come just seconds before it's pointed out that that pretty girl is still able to dance it out, to make those legs still do what she wants them to do and that's shake and get fucking crazy. It really all works out, whether the legs are made out of snakes or can't feel anything - there's nothing that will stop the Mints from getting in.
Starlight Mints Official Site