Best known as the most familiar vocalist/songwriter in Mental as Anything (that's Martin Plaza you hear singing on "If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?," "Rock and Roll Music," "Brain Brain," and many others), Plaza took advantage of the first real break in the Mentals' career and released his debut solo album in 1986. Plaza Suite was not a departure from what the Mentals were doing on their previous album, Fundamental as Anything, although the production was slicker and keyboard-dominated (Plaza is a guitarist). To be honest, most tracks here could have been on Mentals albums, but that's neither here nor there. With a batch of great songs, Plaza sounds confident and self-assured on this album, never letting the album's slick sound take over. His voice is still one of the best in the business, a perfect mixture of Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, and Bryan Ferry. The album is mostly self-penned, and his brilliant cover of "Concrete and Clay" fits in with the originals perfectly (as of 2003, he was still performing this song with the Mentals live). Sounding like the poppier side of Rockpile, Plaza and the Mentals have always specialized in great songwriting, and almost every track here is no exception to that rule. The opener, "Pit Stop," contains all the elements of the perfect Plaza song: playful yet heartfelt vocals, a hooky melody, and an earthiness beneath the shiny surface. Other highlights include the perfect pop of "Miss You Like Mad" and "Use Me All Over," the funky "I Could Be So Good," and the joyous "Best Foot Forward." For fans of the Mentals, track this album down. If you have never heard the Mentals or Plaza, then listen to anything you can get your hands on.
Plaza Suite Review
by Stephen Schnee