Threepenny Thursday – The Sticks

20 Sep

They’re baaaaaaaaack.

Hotly anticipated by Vancouver hipsters and me alike, The Sticks is Mother Mother‘s fourth studio album and a jolly ripping good time, eh what. Harrrumpgh. Mmyes, quite. Capital.

Mother Mother (or Mom Mom, as I’ve just now affectionately dubbed them) are definitely my favourite contemporary band, and the one I’ve seen live the most times. I’ve watched them grow and change as artists over the course of their oeuvre, and “the next album” is always an exciting thing. What fresh sonic delights would my ears experience? I was incredipumped for this puppy.

I’m happy to say that they delivered. After my initial run through the album, I was uncertain about my feelings toward it – which I’ve come to recognize as a good thing (i.e. it usually means there’s more going on than meets the eye…or, rather, ear). Listening again and again, I found my patience and perseverance was rewarded with a solid, polished, genuinely tasty product, full of memorable hooks and catchy melodies. There were a few things that disappointed me – but we’ll get to that.

THINGS I LIKED

-Mood/Sound: Something I’ve always loved about Mama Mama is their singular skill in painting undertone. Even in their happier tracks, it’s always possible to detect a gloomy flavour. You can trace this back to their grainy, raw, emo-scented first album, Touch UpSometimes it’s subtle, as in the majority of Eureka, which had a bubbly pop-rock vibe tainted only by grey linings in some of the tunes and lyrics. The Sticks is unreservedly dark, with more minor-keyed tracks, heavier riffs, and a grungier overall sound. It’s a welcome change, and one that harkens back to their earlier work, which really makes me happy because that stuff is gold, Jerry. Gold.

-Lyricism: Adding to the darker feel of The Sticks is a greater propensity for profanity – there’s way more swearing on this album than I expected. Even when they ain’t cussin’, though, there’s plenty of the verbal originality I’ve come to expect. Every song’s lyrics strike a nice balance between catchy and weird. I think my favourite is this little spoken section from “Infinitesimal”, taking a cheeky stab at particle theory:

Did you know that when you get really close/Nothin’ really touches, bro – just kinda floats/So when you think it might just come to blows/Just so y’know/It won’t, because it can’t, bro

…NOT SO MUCH

-The All-Singing, All-Dancing, All-Ryan Show: A friend pointed this out and forever befouled my attitude toward the whole album. It’s a niggling quibble, true, but I think it’s important: there’s way too much Ryan on The Sticks. Yes he’s the lead singer and guitarist, and yes he’s the driving songwriting force, but that doesn’t mean we need to deny the other band members their time in the spotlight. Where are the Love and Truths, the Sleep Awakes, the Getaways? These songs served to prove that the female members of the band are far too talented to be relegated forever to the background! In fact, the solo female tracks were among my favourites ever, and there’s none of that on The Sticks. It’s not a dealbreaker – the album is still wonderful – it’s just incredibly disappointing.

-Band Growth: Mutter Mutter are well past the sophomore stage at this point; I think it’s time for some real evolution. Here they’ve kept the pop simplicity of Eureka but tarted it up, ripping its skirt and tousling its hair – and it’s nice that their sound is changing, but that simplicity is starting to become restrictive. I get it; I realize they’re trying to capture a more accessible groove in order to expand their fanbase. They certainly have blown up in popularity recently, I mean I heard them in a cheese commercial the other day, for Chrissakes. Point is, what would really tickle my nickle is some experimentation. Maman Maman have an undeniably delicious talent, but it was the weirdness that kept me coming back. When it was shown to me, I’d never heard anything like O My Heart before. It was nothing short of inspired. The Sticks, while expertly done and awesomely tasty, is chock to the brim with stuff I have heard before. And that’s not as cool as it could be. If Eureka was pop-rock, and The Sticks is alt-rock, then we can only hope that their next effort will be prog-rock. Seems a logical progression. I personally can’t wait for some hackneyed Mo Mo concept narratives and brutal 19-minute instrumental genre experiments, can you?

FAVOURITE TRACK(s)

(I apologize for the lack of links, but my blog format won’t support embedded mp3 and nobody seems to have uploaded this album to Youtube yet. Just buy the album already JEEZ, then you can refer back to this handy list of choice tracks!)

-“Dread in My Heart” – Classic Mother Mother, sounds like it could fit right in on O My Heart. Beautiful folksy guitar-pickin’, delightfully obtuse lyrics, and epic backup harmony. The vocal harmony remains my favourite thing this band does, and the best example on The Sticks is this track right here. Plus it introduced me to the phrase “fisti-fuckin’-cuffin'”, which I intend to use liberally from now on.

-“Latter Days” – Really cool time signature on this one, a glimmer of that weirdness I’ve been jonesin’ for. It also has the best ending of any other song on the album – I won’t ruin it, go listen and see what I mean.

-“Bit By Bit” – I’ll be honest – the only reason I’m not picking “Let’s Fall In Love” for this spot is because that’s one of the singles and I want to be contrary and sound like I know what I’m talking about. “Bit By Bit” is great, though, with awesome lyrics and a badass headbangin’ rhythm.

I’m holding back a Jeff because of the album’s limitations in scope and risk. It’s tight and scrumptious and you should one hundred percent buy it. I’m going to settle in and grow to adore it, just like I did with Eureka, but if we don’t see some radical shit on the next one I’m going to officially check the box and change my status to “Disgruntled Fan”.

**

Hey! Guess what? You and I, we’ve reached a significant (?) milestone. That’s right: this review represents the one hundredth post I’ve made on this blog. One hundred posts! It boggles the mind, doesn’t it.

Thank you, dear reader. Yes, you. No no no, not you, you. Yes. Thank you for giving unto me of your time and attention. You are the sturdy tentpole supporting the tattered cloth of my self-worth, and I would never have come this far without ‘cha. I mean I could have, but it would have been an extremely lonely enterprise. In return, I promise to deliver the same finger-lickin’ content I always have. I summoned my godlike Photoshop powers and made this to thank you! As we say on the streets: you da straight juice, yo.

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One Response to “Threepenny Thursday – The Sticks”

  1. Jim CEO September 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Congrats on the 100th post milestone. A true accomplishment. Btw, can I borrow a copy of the MM album? Dad

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