The Strange Art of Mental as Anything

In the early 1980’s a next door neighbor named Paul introduced me to the Australian band Mental as Anything. The album was Cats and Dogs, and since no one outside of Australia was listening to it or knew who the band was at the time, I’m not sure how Paul got turned onto them [My good friend Darrell Freeman just posted on Facebook that he introduced Paul to the band, which means I owe him the debt of gratitude.] All I knew is, when he played it, it was both absolutely familiar and utterly strange. The song “Berserk Warriors” was so clever and bizarre that one classmate I tried to introduce the song to gave me the tape I lent him back and told me he couldn’t listen to it, that he was both heavily attracted to the song and deeply disturbed by it which caused in him a type of cognitive dissonance. That seemed to sum up Mental as Anything–the music is super catchy, but it is not quite the pop music it pretends to be. It is slightly off-kilter and bizarre, and since I was, at sixteen, those things also I loved it. So here is “Berserk Warriors”, one of my all-time favourite pop songs.

The members of Mental as Anything met in art school in Sydney. All were accomplished avant garde artists who continued to paint and create while making music and designing their own album covers.

otheralbumwallThe guitarist for the band, Reg Mombassa, did much of the cover art, and continues to be a prolific and respected artist in Australia and around the world. Here is some of his work and another song, another favourite: “If You Leave Me Can I Come Too.” Enjoy. If you like Mental as Anything, spread the word. The band deserves a renaissance.

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