Mind if we make love to you?
It doesn't sound THAT obtrusive when you consider how long Wondermints have waited to ask it. Four years is a long time for any band. For Darian Sahanaja, Nick Walusko, and Mike D'Amico, it's been a period of intense creative and personal growth that found Wondermints develop from a highly-touted L.A. band idolized by fans of the town's thriving pop music scene to being revered by world class musicians such as Brian Wilson, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and members of S Club 7.
Like most groups, their beginnings were the result of a collaboration between a pair of enthusiastic music fans -- keyboardist Sahanaja and guitarist Walusko. Following a collection of self-recorded/self-released cassettes of their brilliant homespun confections (and the crucial addition of drummer/vocalist D'Amico), the group inked a deal with Japan's Toy's Factory Records who released their debut album -- an assemblage of tracks from the aforementioned cassettes -- in 1995 and contributed to an endless stack of compilation albums as well as penning the title track to "Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery". Interest from Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson and other elders of the pop music world elevated the band to a near-mythical status, and although their sophomore effort -- 1996's "Wonderful World Of Wondermints" -- was merely a collection of cover songs (albeit the most unique collection of cover songs since Bowie's Pin-Ups), they bounced back in 1998 with their true "debut" album, "Bali". Since the album's release, Wondermints have become the toast of the international rock scene, performing worldwide as members of Wilson's band, a gig that exposed them on several late night talk shows, found them being invited to weddings by ex-Beatles, brought them acclaim from shrieking Japanese groupie girls, and eventually thrust them onstage performing in front of the Queen Of England. It's a long way to the top, but it's even a longer way from the Astro Family Restaurant in Silver Lake to Buckingham Palace.
On their highly anticipated fourth album and most collaborative effort to date -- "Mind If We Make Love To You" -- Wondermints guide us through a stunning song cycle in sensual surround sound, a jet setting romp through inner space by the proven masters of the aural massage. Music this divine isn't inspired by tense boardroom meetings or uptight A&R clowns, but by such otherworldly realms as that playground of plastic 'n' fiberglass known as Tomorrowland and endless summer nights spent at the purple-hued, U.F.O.-like cocktail lounge The Encounter that towers high above LAX.
Wondermints have always been light years ahead of their peers, and their music has always been inspired by an affection for a superb palate of sonic architects, a fusion of such unlikely bedfellows as Brazilian psychedelic mavericks Os Mutantes, soundtrack svengali John Barry, Elvis Costello, and sophisticated '60s pop stylists like the Zombies and the Left Banke effortlessly blended with a liberal dosage of West Coast studio wizardry and deceptively tolerant elements of prog rock.
"Mind If We Make Love To You" only reinforces this, combining Wondermints past affinity for musical experimentation with a newfound sense of sincerity that instantly encourages the listener to ponder whether this is the same group who introduced us to "Little Miss Puppet Grrrl" and a certain "Global Village Idiot," and lured us "In And Around Greg Lake." Is it all just one gigantic attempt to gain acceptance in the world of adventurous radio programmers, or is this simply one big scheme designed to get critics to proclaim that Wondermints have "reinvented" rock 'n' roll like every other band who put out a new album this year? Perhaps the point of their mission can best be summed up by Sahanaja (the one with "that hair"): "Our last album 'Bali' seemed like sort of an artificial trip, hence the wave 'machine' and all the electronica undercurrent. We were definitely taking the subversive angle and perhaps 'trying' to be clever. I don't know what it is exactly, but being around someone like Brian Wilson these past few years, you definitely become less concerned with being "hip". There's far less intellectualizing on the new album, we just sort of went for the gut reactions. We must be in a sentimental zone these days because some of it borders on sappy, which is always cool when it's real. I suppose we could have ventured further off into experimental space but it just wasn't where were at these days. We obviously went inward, towards something more natural and organic. . . the true inner space."
Out of mind and completely off the map, "Mind If We Make Love To You" is nothing less than a tour de force through Wondermints' kaleidoscopic range of eclecticism and durability, as much an homage to the past is it is to the unexplored universe of pop music's future. (Plus, it's got a good beat and you can, wellthe title kind of hints at what you can do. Really. It's been done.)
Mind If We Make Love To You? I thought you'd never ask.