I think it’s safe to say that after nearly eleven years since their debut, and six studio albums later, Mother Mother has successfully done something that bands can struggle with for an entire career.
They have established a discernible identity, and a distinct sound that is unarguably theirs. A mixture of hard rock riffs, vocal harmonies, and hip hop inspired electronic beats flood their sound, and it’s executed with their tongue and cheek sense of humour. A song is so distinctively Mother Mother, it can be hard to differentiate between a new track or an old one, and that continues on No culture, which means, if you didn’t like their old stuff, you probably won’t have a change of heart.
Usually I’d say a band is reprimanded for not developing and pushing their sound past their comfort zone, but when you’ve constructed such a unique and identifiable sound, you can understand the argument one would pose.
Do you risk losing your established fans for a fresh taste, or do you do what you’re great at and keep it at that? Especially when you’re an indie band. The good thing here on No Culture, is that it’s Mother Mother’s most consistent album front to back, and my favourite since The Sticks in 2011.
The album comes flying out of the gate, with anthemic “Free” reminding us that Mother Mother isn’t afraid to turn up the amps and remind the indie world that hard rock riffs still exist. The opener sets up the album well, in terms of themes and ideas, and will surely hook you to keep listening.
It’s followed up with immediately catchy, and insanely satisfying “Love Stuck”, which will likely be the band’s best chance at mass radio play. It’s poppy, catchy, but yet still effectively utilizes Mother Mother’s vocal harmonies, to ensure it’s not just a generic indie pop song.
Their lead single “The Drugs”, is okay, and an easy choice as the lead single, but feels a bit like a forced track created specifically for the radio. Title track “No Culture”, is the album’s weakest, with little replay value, and no real hook. It feels too contained and boring to be a Mother Mother song, but it’s made up for with “Mouth of the Devil”, which feels like a crossbreed between a “The Kills”, and an “The XX” song.
(By the way, anybody else hear the obvious melody similarity with I ran on “The Drugs”?)
The rest of the album is solid. Slower tracks like “Letter” and “Family” act as an important refresher and closer in terms of theme and pace, and are perfectly placed in their respective positions at track 5 and 10, on the ten song album.
Probably the best song on the record, “Baby Boy” utilizes the themes of the album to perfection as both Ryan and Molly Guldemond alternate from verse to chorus, until the song lets loose into an instrumental explosion. The harmonic heavy breathing during the chorus definitely adds to the brooding experience, and I can imagine this will tear down the house live.
Songs like, “Back in School”, and “Everything is Happening” help push the themes and tropes of the album further, and are effective in the context of the album. It doesn’t hurt that they’re catchy, and can easily find their ways into an appropriate playlist.
Mother Mother, has produced yet another solid record. I would say their best along with The Sticks. It doesn’t churn out many new sounds, and the themes of love and drugs are a little tiresome, even if packaged together with some self growth. Mother Mother continue to perform Mother Mother, and that’s not really a bad thing.
You’ll like No Culture, if you like past Mother Mother albums, Muse, The Kills, or broody rock in general. Fab gives “No Culture” a B.
See you all at their Toronto show at Massey Hall on March 11th!
Album Highlights “Love Stuck”, “Mouth Of the Devil”, “Baby Boy”
Album Lowlights: “No Culture”
A remember kids, I’m not God. This is just my opinion.