Mother Mother
The Sticks


2.5
average

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
September 28th, 2012 | 17 replies | 6,688 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A face only a mother could love.

Right, so let’s cut straight to the chase: if you’re thinking of picking up the fourth Mother Mother LP in search of more of the same energetic, catchy-as-hell vibe that characterized their last two releases, then you’re in for a disappointment – The Sticks is a different beast entirely. And by that, I mean that virtually every single thing you remembered – perhaps even cherished – about the band from records past has disappeared completely. This time out, the Vancouver five-piece are obsessed with the end of the world, disillusioned by the times in which they find themselves in, and too distracted by the gaping maw of self-isolation opening up before their feet to the point that they kind of forget to live a little. Don’t get me wrong – all of this is actually pretty fine by me. What I’m not so cool with, though, is the fact that in shedding all the traits that made them so unique and memorable, the band has ended up creating a face that only a mother could love (ha).

Initially, it seems quite surprising that a band which built its reputation around an overall sense of quirkiness and shameless whimsicality could turn into a bunch of graying middle-agers overnight. But singer and lead guitarist Ryan Guldemond is quick to suggest that their new-found sobriety is borne out of a society-wide disenfranchisement with the modern age, which they’ve simply seen more and more of lately. "Much of the themes wrap around this longing to escape the clutches of the modern world and get back in 'the sticks' – retreat to a simpler, almost more logical place," he explained in a recent interview with Postmedia News. "It's about the peace of the soul – the soul's tranquillity, and how it can be disrupted by all this information and vapid communication flying around via technology,” he added. In a world that seems to continuously teeter on the brink of losing all meaning, this comes as a powerful thesis statement, and Mother Mother is canny enough to know as much.

Yet the manner in which they have designed The Sticks to deliberately escape – nay, shirk – its duty of care is jarring, for not once does the record give pause to disguise the overarching sense of dreariness with which it dresses its proposition, to the point that one might even accuse it of reveling in our despair. Even fans of the band’s more off-the-handle, wildly uneven tracks from their previous records would do well to take note that this really isn’t the same sort of over-the-top, mildly-scary pantomime melodrama that ran down the nervous centre of songs like “Try to Change” or “Far in Time”, but something much more sinister altogether. Take, for instance, the album’s penultimate track, “Waiting for the World to End”, which features Ryan Guldemond singing the lines, “Everybody come with me/Let’s throw ourselves off Hubbard’s Peak/And we’ll tumble down the mountainside/Into the mouth of all our great divides.” While it certainly doesn’t mark the first time that Mother Mother have exhibited lemming-like tendencies within their lyrics, there’s a certain disingenuous, Pied Piper of Hamelin air about this particular round of artist-assisted suicide. It’s almost as if the band is deliberately leading us on, all the while casting furtive glances over their shoulder to see how far, exactly, we will follow them into the great unknown.

Even the album’s more convivial cuts reek of a certain amount of cynicism: lead single “Let’s Fall in Love”, for one, is decidedly very much against doing exactly that. “Mommy did it, daddy did it – even though I bet they wish they really didn’t,” chants the band en masse over a bumpy, unforgiving guitar section. Even as far as modern anti-love anthems go, this one stands out as being particularly vitriolic. Elsewhere, “Infinitesimal” sees Ryan Guldemond and co. counting the cost of having loved and lost: “There’s a million, billion, trillion stars/But I’m down here low, fussing over scars,” they wheedle in perfect, almost-captivating unison. Deeper album tracks like “Cry Forum”, in turn, sees Guldemond casting himself as an otherworldly, omniscient observer bemoaning the fate of a godless world – “I stare at the populous in prayer, I look at ‘em talking to the air/I sing for ‘em – they don’t seem to hear; I cry for ‘em,” he emotes, and one can just about see the anguish in his face – while “Dread In My Heart” swaps out any semblance of prettiness that its light acoustic arrangements may have brought for a dose of all out profanity: “Fisti-fuckin-cuffin’ in the dirt!” exhorts Guldemond at the apex of the second verse. Yet, even if one chooses to set these examples of The Sticks’ unforgiving style of lyricism aside, the rest of the record’s architecture still manages to ensure that Mother Mother’s transfiguration of their brand into an embodiment of hopelessness and overwhelming pessimism is thorough and complete, as the vast majority of the album’s tracks largely reside in the waffling, mid-tempo realm, and the instrumentation, although serviceable, barely rises above the absolutely necessary.

What this ultimately means is that in the end, there’s not much to distract from the fact Mother Mother’s cuts simply aren’t that good this time around. Very few individual songs on The Sticks actually prove themselves capable of making the connections their parent band so obviously want them to make, and as there is barely anything else to focus on elsewhere, mild weaknesses – like the rattling incongruency of the title track’s instrumental arrangements, or the forced, oftentimes shoddy lyrical work on “Love It Dissipates” (“If you were so funny, I’d be your joke/If you had the money, well we both might be broke”…sigh), and the slow, boring crawl at which “Little Pistol” creeps by – become glaringly and painfully obvious. To be fair though, every track here does have a successful moment of sorts – a brief moment of transcendence, if you like – but frustratingly, they are too often sandwiched between minutes of uninspired prose or turn out to be mere frosting on a particularly unremarkable cake. In general, the less over-reaching and more focused The Sticks’ tracks are, the better they turn out to be: I for one found that the numbers that walk a fairly linear path – like “Infinitesimal” or the sure-to-be-criminally-underrated “Happy” - were a welcome reminder of the reasons why I bought into the unbridled, naked euphorics of both O My Heart and Eureka. Yet despite my misgivings I also confess to feeling that it is unlikely that The Sticks will turn out to be more than just a mere bump in the road; it is often said that every artist is allowed at least one bad idea, and for Mother Mother this may simply be an instance of them fulfilling that quota. All told, the hugely-talented Vancouver outfit may not have strung themselves up the ankles here, exactly, but it looks like their official coronation as the undisputable matriarchs of the western Canadian indie scene may have to wait for a little while yet.



Recent reviews by this author
Ty Segall ManipulatorLinkin Park The Hunting Party
Coldplay Ghost StoriesCaleb McAlpine All Things New
Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire For No WitnessEternal Summers The Drop Beneath
user ratings (23)
Chart.
3.3
great
other reviews of this album
Nathan Taft (3)
Why people shouldn't pretend to be something they're not....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2012



7177 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Okay so apparently my being Staff on here does not give me a way around the profanity censor.

#disappointing

Digging: Ty Segall - Manipulator

mindleviticus
September 28th 2012



8220 Comments


Mother Mother were already pretty terrible to begin with. How could they possibly get more terrible?

Tyrael
September 28th 2012



20828 Comments


ha

themainmast
September 28th 2012



247 Comments


i completely agree with this review. "if you’re thinking of picking up the fourth Mother Mother LP in search of more of the same energetic, catchy-as-hell vibe that characterized their last two releases, then you’re in for a disappointment"

so true.

PuddlesPuddles
September 28th 2012



4772 Comments


Yeah there's no reason for this album

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
September 29th 2012



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"if you’re thinking of picking up the fourth Mother Mother LP in search of more of the same energetic, catchy-as-hell vibe that characterized their last two releases, then you’re in for a disappointment – The Sticks is a different beast entirely. And by that, I mean that virtually every single thing you remembered – perhaps even cherished – about the band from records past has disappeared completely"

what? I'm not getting this at all. It's another Mother Mother album and sounds virtually exactly the same as the last one.

but whatever, glad to see you this grew on you a little bit. I'll always have a soft spot for this band because I was in to them when they were still playing shitty bars in Nanaimo with less than twenty people in attendance, but this is their most mundane, watered down work yet.

The single is fucking awful (Let's Fall in Love) but the rest of the album was better than I expected. anyway good review as always, i just don't get where you're coming from with that first bit.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2012



15892 Comments


Irving, if you go back in and edit the review you can keep your profanity

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2012



7177 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I find it funny that I've got two comments from two different people quoting the exact same paragraph and arriving at two wildly different conclusions. Obviously, I'm more tempted to side with themainmast (=p), and I thought that it would be wholly obvious too - the Mother Mother I remember from Eureka and O My Heart is one that was jovial, cheerful, eccentric, and all out bonkers lol. Here, they seem a lot more depressed, less inclined to go out on a limb to nowhere (yes I'm completely nixing my idioms here hahah), and just generally less fun, all told. I think even a straight-up tabulation of the amount of fast/catchy numbers will reveal that The Sticks has a lower amount of such songs per capita as opposed to their previous two records.

As I've (hopefully) clearly outlined though - I don't think there's anything wrong with this approach per se, and I couldn't see myself scoring The Sticks lower for such a reason alone - as it's virtually tantamount to penalizing an artist super heavily for an attempt at innovation, which, I think, should always be wholly encouraged. It's just that the songs themselves simply aren't as catchy and/or memorable as they usually tend to be from these guys.

I hope that answers your question? =)

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 29th 2012



7177 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Also - thanks SS. Protip noted ;)

mindleviticus
November 20th 2012



8220 Comments


This is so bad it's laughable

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 20th 2012



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

good response Irving, I missed it before

I could agree that maybe they have gotten more cynical or depressive lyrically. But sonically, this album is like a carbon copy of Eurkea, in my eyes anyway.

it's all moot anyway because this band has made the only important album they ever will already.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
November 20th 2012



23806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Summary: A face only a mother could love."

just realized that this is essentially, sort of, kind of, why I'm defending this album/band so hard.

thedearlydeparted
January 15th 2013



4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Meaningful, dynamic, well-executed. This band never ceases to surprise me with their quirky but well-written songs. I enjoyed this LP more as a cohesive album than simply a collection of songs- it has a pretty clear idea. They thoroughly explore those avenues of uncertainty and foreboding.

peep99
January 27th 2013



1 Comments


Wow! Why all the hate? If you had the opportunity to meet this group (as I have), you would be amazed at how down-to-earth and personable they all are. They are not full of themselves ... they are real people.

I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Molly (so very pleasant!), exchanges with Jeremy and Ali complimenting them on their amazing bass and drum work on songs with the band respectively, plus Molly's fellow song-bird Jasmin (she was truly sweating at the venue we saw them play at!). Molly deferred to Ryan as the head-honcho and we got to meet him and talk about the songs on The Sticks. As it turns out, Ryan said his favourite song was the same one I mentioned as my favourite (I will not say more as he didn't want this public).

I did learn that Ryan is a pescatarian (fish + veggies) and other band members seem to be vegetarians (don't quote me on that!). Ryan has a sharp wit and he made several remarks during the meet-and-greet that were hilarious! I was literally laughing out loud about some of them! Ryan was celebrating his birthday around the time of that concert and looking for restaurant options. I wish I had known more about the local restaurant scene to help them out. I'm sure they made out okay though.

As for "The Sticks" album ... love it! Amazing songs like "Bit by Bit" and "Infinitesimal" are my favourites. Ryan, in a very classy fashion during the live show, dedicated the song "Little Pistol" to the tragic passing of Amanda Todd.

Mother Mother are awesome live! Don't let anybody tell you otherwise! I recommended that they should put out a live album ... their live show has tremendous energy. If you have the chance to speak to Ryan on the road, re-inforce this idea! The studio albums are great but you only feel the true energy of Mother Mother when they are live! You know this, Ryan! ;) Give us a live album!


humblerodent
February 4th 2013



211 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Well I was going to review this but... I think that review pretty much said it all

Digging: Sage Francis - Copper Gone

demigod!
February 4th 2013



44153 Comments


this band is painfully indie

Digging: Failure - Magnified

Tyrael
February 4th 2013



20828 Comments


Their previous efforts rule hard



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy