Eureka Mother Mother (Last Gang)
A eureka moment is a flash of understanding that seems to come from nowhere, though the situation it clarifies may be familiar to the point of obsession. We have a term for it because it's a rare experience - rare to the vanishing point on this album of confident pop songs about things that won't be found, people that can't be understood and societies in which "reality" is often a snare or a TV series.
"Try chasing it down, it don't want to be found," Ryan Guldemond sings in the disc's opening minutes, before denying he is who he seems to be. He and everything else is in a dodge-and-weave state - sort of like the music on this disc, which never goes just one way when two or three would be more fun.
In Original Spin he complains about how hard it is to "feel something with an original spin," as the chorus changes harmony every other beat, as if clicking through so many different angles on the same puzzling view. But those changes are also going in a powerfully definite direction. Musically, the song has the tight pop mobility of anything by Max Martin, though if Martin's client Britney Spears were singing this stuff, we'd be talking about how badly we've underestimated her intelligence.
Guldemond, who wrote all the songs and lyrics and also plays guitar, puts a lot of drive into his material, but isn't afraid to take a detour, or several, from a strict verse-chorus format. It's common to find a couple of bridge-like sections sprouting from a latent melodic cue (as in Problems), or a coda that puts a new twist on everything that's gone before. My favourite in that line is Oleander's high wordless vocal flourish , which comes from nowhere but on second play feels indispensable.
The five Vancouver-based musicians of Mother Mother move very nimbly through Guldemond's maze-like constructions. Only occasionally do they settle into the thrumming metronomic beat that makes a lot of indie music sound as formulaic as anything on radio. Even then (in Simply Simple, for instance), Guldemond can't resist adding some new instrumental elaboration for the second verse. The textures of the music run from the rugged dance rock of Chasing It Down to the airy strummed mandolins of Getaway to the shining massive keyboard sounds that make the end of Baby Don't Dance so exhilarating. Mother Mother's rhythm section (bassist Jeremy Page and drummer Ali Siadat) has a lot of shift and shake to take care of, and they do it well.
Guldemond's pop tenor sounds playful in most situations, though Born in a Flash, about the creation of dead moments by photography, draws a more sober tone from him. He gets off a few diving falsetto "oohs" in Baby Don't Dance, à la Michael Jackson, and at other moments brings Freddie Mercury to mind, as much through his flauntable originality as through his sound and inflection.
The baby-doll vocals of Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin feel oddly perfect for the watchful supporting chores they're given, such as the questions and comments with which they catechize the male voice in The Stand. This song, the album's first single, is the most Janus-faced thing on the record: a jolly number about a kind of disgust that reaches to the end of space. Far in Time may be the most alienated, in its sketch of social entropies that make us all strangers. But it will still make 'em dance in the clubs.
Mother Mother plays the SXSW Festival in Austin, Tex., March 17- 19, Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria March 27-28, Edmonton Event Centre March 31 and MacEwan Hall Ballroom in Calgary April 2, with more Canadian dates at mothermothersite.com/live/.
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