Review Summary: I just fell from the mothership.
It pains me to say, but everyone's favourite gibberish lord has suffered a fate worse than death on Mothership
– total and complete unmemorability. Jon Mess, formerly commander of a semi-ironic fanbase that approached cult levels, is now captain of nothing more than a tired shtick, with not a single one of his lines sporting that distinctive humour that would prevent it fading from your head literally the second he stops saying it. For most of Mothership
's overlong 13-track runtime he sticks shyly to the verses, squawking and shrieking out some lazy nonsense before Tillian takes over the chorus and we rinse and repeat. Worse than this heartbreaking fall from grace is that the band compensates for the absence of quality Messisms with humour so cringe-worthy and childish it makes a Jonny Craig solo album sound profound. "Flossie Dickey Bounce" and "Chocolate Jackalope" are the equivalent of the band banging their instruments on each other's heads and shouting "look at how WACKY we are", with some god-awful autotune and Drake references just to drive home how desperate they are to be funny. The band that once effortlessly led the field on stupid entertainment are now pale imitators, barely able to coax a smile from the once-cheering crowd.
Fortunately, the rest of Mothership
has a semblance of effort put into the songwriting, and for two whole songs we actually get an idea that there could be another great album in this band if they would, y’know, try. "Here Comes the Winner" and "Man of the Year" are (relatively) slow-burners, focusing on a steady build that makes the best of Will Swan and Matt Mingus' dynamic while finally allowing Tillian a chance to shine. I can't deny that Tillian has come into his own here, commanding each chorus and melody with the ease of someone who'd been with the band for seven albums instead of three. His screams on "Here Comes the Winner" show an untapped aggressive side that finally justifies his being hired in the first place, and some cynical romantic lyrics take us back to the days of Happiness
when there were occasionally some lyrics worth listening to: "So tell me that I am the love of your life/I'll be in character, batting my eyes". "Man of the Year", meanwhile, recalls the heavier parts of Acceptance Speech
when Mess was still capable of blowing you over through your speakers, and a powerful Mess/Tillian climax finally makes something useful of the undiscovered country that is some chemistry between the two vocalists. It's an ideal choice for closer, partly by being the best track by far and partly because we all deserved some sort of reward for sitting through "Chocolate Jackalope".
The saddest part is, apart from the two highlights and the two dregs at the bottom of the barrel, most of Mothership
passes by in a blur of absolutely nothing worth remembering. There is potential in Tillian's new-found confidence and the ever-reliable rhythm section of the band, but it's being squandered on unconvincing heaviness, garbage humour and unneeded flute features to affect some pretension of experimentation. Do yourself a favour and visit the Death Star instead of this mothership, and remember when there was still something worth salvaging here.