Tuesday, August 17, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 167: Mother Mother

And so we bid a fond adieu to swing, or ragtime, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

Instead, we get to the first of my birthday CDs! I was fortunate to get a number of CDs for my birthday, this is one of three from my friends Joel and Sherylyn - thanks, guys! I was tempted to review one of these right away, but I decided to trust to the dice and wait for one to pop up. Here is the first to appear.

Disc 167 is...O My Heart
Artist: Mother Mother

Year of Release: 2005

What’s Up With The Cover?: A fishhead, hooked. This would go with the opening lyric of the first song, "O my heart, it's a fish out of water." Here we have a fish out of water. I like this cover for its simplicity and for its strong imagery that relates to what we can expect on the record. That said, I'm not a fan of the symbol for heart in place of the word (more on my prescriptionist approach to spelling to follow).

How I Came To Know It: As I noted in the teaser, I was introduced to Mother Mother by Joel and Sherylyn only a couple months ago. The Odyssey is reinforcing my belief that the best way to hear about new music is through other people who love music. The radio? Not so much...

How It Stacks Up: I only have this one Mother Mother album, so I can't compare. I believe they have one other record, but I haven't heard it. Apparently one of their albums is 'really out there' but I'm not sure if this is it, or its the other one.

Rating: 3 stars but almost 4.

J&S introduced me to three acts this year - Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, and Gogol Bordello. Of the three, Mother Mother is my least favourite, but don't let that fool you - I like it a lot - it is just I liked the other two that much more.

This record grew on me with each listen. If you don't know, when I first get a new record, I listen to it at least three times right through (although not necessarily in succession) before I add it to my library. That way I get a good feel for it despite the ongoing flow of music through my house. The library in my place is not a musty place though - I'm always digging something out I haven't heard in a while - when the Odyssey isn't dictating, of course.

This record is a strange mix of mournful indie-pop like the Decemberists, or even Rilo Kiley, blended with a disco-pop kind of sound that had me thinking about Scissor Sisters on more than one occasion.

As I've said, this makes for a pretty interesting concoction, and it takes a few listens to get an ear for it. When I rolled it for the review yesterday, I actually kept it in the car for a second listen today partly for this reason. The other reason I did so is it is a great driving record, and I was enjoying it in the sunny drive home too much to cut it short after one day.

In terms of my reaction to it, I had a Decemberists flashback, in that I enjoyed the structure of the songs, and the lyrics are clever and often thought-provoking. At the same time, it has that indie challenge of being emotionally disconnected at times. This works better with some tunes than others, principally based on the topic of the song.

For songs like "O My Heart" or "Ghosting" that aim to express emotional disconnect, or a longing to belong, while remaining apart, this style works very well, and both these songs became quick favourites. For songs that need a little more connection down in the gut like "Burning Pile" or "Try To Change" it doesn't work as well, and so these tracks didn't resonate the same way.

I particularly like these lyrics from "Ghosting":

"I won’t put white into your hair
I won’t make noises in your stairs
I will be kind and I’ll be sweet
If you’ll stop staring straight through me.

And this is why I have decided
To pull these old white sheets from my head
I’ll leave them folded neat and tidy
So that you’ll know I’m out of hiding.

And this is why I have decided
To leave your house and home unhaunted
You don’t need poltergeists for sidekicks
You don’t need treats and you don’t need tricks."

This song reminds me of Blue Rodeo's "Disappear" from their album, Tremolo, or any number of other great songs about a love that has faded into nothing but an apparition.

Mother Mother has quite a few nice turns of phrase, and another favourite is found in "Wrecking Ball" which captures rage thusly:

"I am unruly in the stands
I am a rock on top of the sand
I am a fist among the hands
I break things just because I can."

This is one of my favourite songs on the record, although I'll admit I wish it were just a little bit more...angry...in its delivery. It would be interested to hear this song in a punk format.

Mother Mother are a Canadian band, and local to the west coast, which I dig, even though I try not to be a homer. On this front I have one minor quibble - which is that one of their songs is called "Arms Tonite" Um...that really should be "Arms Tonight" for us north-of-the-border crowd.

Overall, Mother Mother is a great discovery. Indie is not the sweet spot of my music listening ear, and for this reason those bands that reach me are that much more precious in the finding. Mother Mother more than qualifies on this front, and I'm glad to have had a chance to hear their stuff. It's good stuff.

Best tracks: O My Heart, Body of Years, Ghosting, Hay Loft, Wrecking Ball

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