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Who Is Mother Mother?

Mother Mother, a Canadian band started in 2005, has grown and steadily kept their fan base since their inception. Their first studio album Touch Up, released in 2007 and followed by Oh My Heart in 2008, seems to be their most popular album. The band then took a 3 year recording break until 2011 when they released their 3rd full length album Eureka, followed by The Sticks in 2012. Yet another recording break of about 5 years then took place before the band released No culture in 2017, and finally Dance and Cry in 2018. Because their music seems to be split into 3 phases, I’ve decided to review them as such. After each review, I will rate the albums on a scale of 1-10, (with 5 meaning I have no strong feelings on the album, 10 meaning it’s one of the best albums I have reviewed, and 1 being one of the worst).

When listening to their first works (2005-8), you can see some similarities to another band that you might know if you listen to rock, Modest Mouse. This would make sense, as just a year before the bands start up, Modest Mouse had released their own album Good News For People Who Like Bad News, and before that they had released two albums, This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About in 1996, and The Lonesome Crowded West in 1997. In 2005, Mother Mother came out with their first album simply titled Mother, which then, in 2007 became Touch Up when they were picked up by Last gang records. Now, when listening to Touch Up/Mother, we see that they already have their sound very defined, especially with lead singer Ryan Guldemond’s very peculiar voice they were sure to single out. Additionally, with the song “Verbatim”, which still seems to be their most popular to this day, they showed that they could stray from the standard rock template, and that they could do it well.

Then, when in 2008 the band released Oh My Heart, they seemed to be on the upswing, many of their songs on Oh My Heart are enjoyable as are many on Touch Up. Songs like “Touch Up”, “Verbatim” and “Polynesia” stuck with me, especially the tongue-and-cheek lyrics of “Verbatim” and the way the acoustic and electric guitar played with each other in “Polynesia”. “Wrecking Ball” and “Wisdom” were some of my favorites on the album. Then, with Oh My Heart, they continued to experiment with their sound, elaborating on the poly-vocal side of their music, using the sounds of creaking wooden doors/stairs to put an air of anxiety on the song “Sleep Awake”, and continuing to build on their lyricism. All in all, I would give Oh My Heart a 6/10, and Touch Up a 7. They were generally good albums, although they were not without their slow or boring parts. Oh My Heart definitely had more songs that seemed like filler than Touch Up.

Now, after Mother Mother’s 3 year break they come back with the album Eureka in 2011. While there were no real stand-out songs on this album, it was still a good listen overall. Even though they experimented with their sound less than on other albums, they built on it much more. This can additionally be seen on The Sticks. Take the track “Original Spin”; the droning synths providing counter melody to the guitar gives the song a certain edge to it, or consider their song “The Stand”, certainly one of the more out there songs in their discography; the laid back yet still hyper delivery of the tongue and cheek lyrics, mixed with the back and forth nature provided by Molly Guldemond made the song automatically engaging. Additionally, the beat itself, which mixes country, hip hop and possibly even some edm/house influences, shows just how far the band is willing to experiment with their sound, and that when they get it right, it’s spot on.

Now, I previously mentioned The Sticks as keeping the sonic experimentation to a minimum, and instead developing the musical niche they had made for themselves. On songs like “Waiting For The World To End”, you can hear the sounds of wooden creaking, strings and other instruments warping to extremes of either ear-bleedingly high pitches, or to where they are almost impossible to hear; and all the while, a sole guitar plays the melody with Ryan and Mary singing together. There were some songs on The Sticks that I felt could’ve been better however, like the song “Infinitesimal”. I found “Infinitesimal” somewhat annoying, for whether it be the lyrics in the chorus/bridge combination or the times when the poly-vocals came in, they seemed misplaced or just off. For Eureka I’d give it a rating of 7, under Touch Up, and I would give The Sticks an 8.

Then, in 2016 on their own record label Mother Mother came out with No Culture. No Culture taps much more into the pop aspect of their music than previous projects, yet they still stay true to their rock roots. If I am being honest, I believe No Culture was an apt name for this piece; it was the most boring of their projects, most of the songs were bland and forgettable. If asked, I wouldn’t be able to name a song off of the album except for the title track itself. During the second run over of the album, most songs I listened to were uninteresting and were a chore to listen to again for a second/third time. However, if you are making a pop/rock playlist, using most songs off of No Culture to pad for time and use as gap fillers would be a very good use of those songs, otherwise the songs just seem bland and somewhat cookie-cutter.

In 2018, Mother Mother released their (for now) final album, Dance And Cry, which I would say is a much more hyper and fast paced album than say Eureka or No Culture. Clocking in at just about 40 minutes, it is very reminiscent of the bands original albums like Oh My Heart. It's a lot more of a rock album than No Culture was, although there are still some good pop songs on the album, like the sad and aggressive pop song “I Must Cry Out Loud”. So the question is, what would I rate these albums? Well, No Culture is going to be a 3, in my opinion it was boring, bland, and when I listened to it a second time it was a chore. However, Dance and Cry is going to be a 7, while it was more enjoyable than Oh My Heart, Touch Up still has a leg above it in that Touch Up just had more songs that I liked better than what Dance And Cry had to offer.

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