Hot on the heels of the semi-disappointing Beetroot Stains, the Mentals have not yet returned to the musical heights of old, but they are certainly almost there. Road Case is the second album to feature the new lineup of original members Martin Plaza (guitar and vocals), Greedy Smith (keyboards and vocals), and David "Bird" Twohill (drums), joined by new members Duck Baraclough (bass and vocals), and Mike Caen (guitar). With the nervous experimentation of the last album out of the way, the Mentals return to writing an album chock full of good tunes -- almost. Plaza, the man with the voice of the Gods, weighs in with great songs, including "Talking In Tongues," "One Thing Leads to Another," and "That's Why I'm Excited." His "Surf 'N' Murf" instrumental is one of the best modern surf tunes around. The always-reliable Smith has penned some fine pop nuggets, including "Wrong," "To Love Us Too," and "Sweetheart." Once again, Smith and Plaza allow Baraclough to have equal air time (if not more), and his songs, as good as they are, seem out of step with the Mentals. "Evil Twin" and "Love You Til You Throw Me Out" are nice, but "Inner Freak" and "Velcro Slab" belong on Duck's solo album. To be fair, Baraclough seems to serve as a bridge between what the Mentals were, and where they need to be in order to survive in the current music scene. Perhaps this is the direction that the band wants to pursue, and us old fans just better get used to it.
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