The Pittsburgh-based garage rockers the Mount McKinleys do little to shake up their genre. Their debut, Portrait of a Mindbender, brings the usual reheats to the table: three chords on scruffy tube-stack amps with occasional surf reverb, vocals that intentionally or unintentionally flub their notes, the retro array of lo-fi/hi-fi jokes, campy Twilight Zone parody, and mock mad science. Mindbender has a tendency to blend together with little to distinguish one song from the next. The Mount McKinleys are good fun, but not necessarily a good listen. Mindbender suggests the Mount McKinleys are a better live band than a studio band. And, like most spook rock bands, the McKinleys lose their essential roughness and sloppiness upon being recorded. Mindbender might not be the strongest album from a band that generally produces strong material, but it's not completely lost. All rock & roll can be done in under three minutes, and the McKinleys at least know to budget their time, as few songs on Mindbender exceed two and a half minutes in length. The beat-up guitar and vampire organ on "Bring You Down" catch the McKinleys at a rare energetic moment. Things also get interesting around "Area 51," a messy surf instrumental that sounds nothing like anything else on Portrait, but unfortunately sounds just like every other surf instrumental ever written. Overall, all the cute theremin cameos and '60s sci-fi references in the world couldn't make Portrait of a Mindbender memorable. Skip this one and pick up Stacked Up (And Get It!).
AllMusic Review by William Peters