By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
There has to be a place for the Starlight Mints. How many other bands will make "If you pull me apart, don't swallow my heart" (from "Submarine #3") the catchiest line you've heard in more than two weeks?
A five-piece outfit led by singer/guitarist Alan Vest, the Mints hail from Oklahoma, just like the Flaming Lips. If life was fair, the comparisons would end there, but anyone who's seen the Master P episode of Cribs knows life isn't fair. The Mints have even taken some heat -- in this publication, no less -- for touring with the very band they seek separation from.
It's a shame, because the band's string-arrangement indulgences and unconventional chord changes actually owe as much to Belle and Sebastian as to anyone else, and Vest's vocal inflections are those of a lifelong Frank Black worshipper. They seem to idly pick up and put down several styles, often within the same song, before ultimately settling on a stilted, swaggering, '60s-era pop best exemplified in "The Twilight Showdown" and "Black Cat." Close your eyes and you can see a pack of mod swingers getting groovy during the intervals of Laugh-In or Get Smart.
If nothing else, 2000's The Dream That Stuff Was Made Of was a cleverly titled debut album, and its inclusion of "Cracker Jack" and "Submarine #3" certainly didn't hurt. The Mints' follow-up, Built on Squares, keeps the ball rolling, but it still has a ways to go to catch up unless there's some sort of nationwide tour to support it. Oh, right.