Together for the best part of a decade, Wondermints origins go back even further than that, to 1982 when principle songwriters Nick Walusko and Darian Sahanaja first struck up a friendship.

Having released a succession of well received cassette EPs, the band, augmented by drummer and occasional songwriter Mike D’Amico, finally released their self-titled debut album in 1995 on the Japanese label Toy’s Factory.

The band’s talents were undeniable, but their wide array of influences and bewildering musical dexterity undoubtedly deterred the interest of the increasingly conservative major labels in the States. The album was however belatedly picked up for U.S. distribution by Big Deal, who were one of the leading power pop labels before acrimoniously closing for business in 1998.

In Japan meanwhile, Wondermints had nothing but support from their label and whilst their second album, a collection of covers entitled ‘The Wonderful World Of The Wondermints’ may not have seemed a logical step for a band keen to establish its own identity, it was what their label wanted and as they were offering more for this album than U.S. labels were prepared to pay for three albums it was a hard request for the band to turn down.

Like the debut that preceded it, the album was lushly arranged, diverse (the album featured covers of songs by Pink Floyd, The Monkees, Abba and even a version of one of the songs from their own debut) and succeeded in meshing the bands acknowledged 60s and 70s influences into something immediate, irresistibly accessible and contemporary.

It’s hard to deny that Wondermints are to some extent retro-inspired and maybe even a little kitsch, but you’d have to be very miserable to resist their infectious sense of fun and impressive sonic adventurism. Qualities that resulted in the band being invited to contribute to the first Austin Power soundtrack and most notably gained the band an immense compliment from no less than Brian Wilson, who said: “If I had Wondermints in 1967, I would have taken 'Smile' out on the road”. Some praise indeed.

In fact, Brian Wilson has subsequently employed Wondermints as his backing group on several rapturously received concert appearances throughout the U.S. during the past year. Hopefully UK audiences will get the chance to see this mouth-watering combination next year after having had its appetite whetted by the recent debut performances here by Wondermints.

And so to 'Bali' ! The band's most recent album was originally released in Japan in 1998, but it’s taken until now due to some protracted legal wrangling for it to see an official UK release. And it’s most definitely been worth the wait. Combining similar influences as before, the album sees the band toughening up, hear the powerful Who-like drums at the start of the epic ‘Chris Craft No. 10’ and in contrast demonstrating their equal mastery of easy-listening as on ‘Sting o’ Luv’. They might be a little too polished for some tastes, but anyone who regards pop music as a serious art form (maybe not too serious though!) and has room in their lives for the likes of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Zombies, The Kinks, Burt Bacharach or Abba should quickly make space for the breathtakingly refreshing sounds of Wondermints. All three of the aforementioned albums are now available in the UK and come very highly recommended.

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