Read reviews for Louisville Kentucky band Anton Mink, and the point of reference is almost universally cited is Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. It’s not hard to see why, given that there are three guys in the band, and a blonde singer. Lazy, lazy, lazy, though – as that’s where the similarities end, at least on the strength of the four songs on display here. There’s blues, metal, jazz, and soul all thrashed into a simple, effective and thoroughly unique sound. I’m hooked.
Yabba, the opening track, is a driving rock tune that comes across as some twisted Southern Baptist prayer meeting as soon as talented vocalist Chloa M. comes in singing “Church of Deliverance, proper demands, ya’ll get up and clap your hands!”. The lyrics, in common with all the tracks, are surreal and broad-stroked, and all the better for it. Anton Mink through words and music conjure up vivid images that you can tap your feet to/ rock your socks off as the turn may take you. At the risk of falling into a rorshach, Yabba seems to me to ooze sex, shame, and sweat. Gwen Stefani my arse, the point of reference here is Jim Morrison, replacing the effete tinkling of Ray Manzarek’s organ with a muscular and lean combination of bass, guitar, and drums, all of whom know exactly where to come in – and stay out – for the benefit of the song.
And it’s this respect for the overall song that impresses me so much with Anton Mink. The four band members are all talented in their own field, but none demand the spotlight. This is a band unit that combine to produce a well-defined and precise thing, a song. My personal favourite, by a long shot, is Armies which is brave, bold and catchy. Brave, because the song ignores traditional song structures. It starts with a refrain, that’s almost a nursery-rhyme in its simplicity and repetition, dominated by Anton Z.’s bass line. Wordless vocals open the song, with shades of Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries, before Chloa M. establishes a call and response structure with stripped back lyrics that, say so much with so little.
“How you doing? Where you going? How have you been? Never thought I would have to see you again. Has it been long enough for us to be friends, because we can’t go back to where it began.”
Then, as if being called for support, the guitars and drums come in and change the song radically. It all seems natural, but head turning at the same time, like the opening moments of a hallucination when you click that something is distorted and strange. What the song is about, I don’t know, but it works so well that it’s haunted me for days now.
The band were initially formed as a duo, when bass player Anton Z. hooked up, musically, with Chloa M. in Louisville Kentucky. He was a veteran of the local punk scene, while she had spent time singing with various drumm n’ bass djs. As a duo they started attracting attention – not least for the novel approach of eschewing guitars. Thankfully, though, at a certain point guitarist Andy Jack joined up, whose heavy but soulful playing helps emphasise the raw strength of Chloa M.’s vocals and lyrics without overwhelming. In every song, under the dominant melody there’s a groove and subtlety going on that catches the ear on subsequent listens – precisely thanks to Jack.
And groove may just be the best term to describe the band – bass heavy, rythmic, down and dirty. Listening to them is like scratching an itch. Much of the groove is thanks, as well, to the intelligent drumming of Germoe (don’t ask me for second names, the band’s press kit goes for the informal).
Truck Stop is gentler and dreamy, but always retains a shade of danger as the singer tells us
At the truck stop baby they got plenty of things to eat
You better watch those pockets for the cops never walk their beat
They’re all fueled by low grade lemonade while lot lizrds are licking it up in the shade
well dead men don’t talk and they surely don’t play no games
It’s like the soundtrack to the trippiest film you’ve ever seen.
Rounding things up is Monster Trucks, which, to this reviewer, is the weakest song on display. It sounds like a jam, and misses that spark that the other songs here have in abundance. That’s not to say that it’s bad, just not brilliant. Because that’s exactly what the other three tracks here are – Brilliant.