I doubt it’s a coincidence that the opening song of Mother Mother’s new album is called “Get Out the Way”. From its first carnivalesque blast of synth, Mother Mother declares that Very Good Bad Thing is a large, loud, unapologetic rock album. It’s a different direction for a band that’s always had a tongue planted firmly in cheek, but the risk pays off in spades—this might be their best album yet.
Very Good Bad Thing offers up a grab-bag of sounds and influences, including get-up-and-dance EDM beats, grungy synth fuzz, playful riffs, and dark, melancholic subject matter. If that sounds like a lot of contradictions, you’re not wrong; this is an album full of juxtapositions. It manages to be joyous and mournful, mixing electronic and rock ‘n roll music into ten tracks full of great moments. The opening song (which, sadly, is not a cover of Ludacris’ “Move, Bitch”) plants the listener firmly into a rock musician’s swaggering mindset. “Monkey Tree”, meanwhile, has a slower, more playful melody tied to a fuzzy synth backer, and combines the childish notion of living in a monkey tree with an adult’s dream world where “the drugs and the drinks are free.”
Very Good Bad Thing’s songs meditate on this sex, drugs, and rock and roll mindset. “Reaper Man”, one of the best tracks, lies more on the sex side of the spectrum. Its dark melody and slow drumbeat exude grimy sensuality, and the lyrics describe a character who’s totally run out of fucks to give when it comes to the standard modicums of decency. It’d make an absolutely fabulous backing song for a strip tease, as the band wonders “How’d I ever get so off my rocks?” before contemplatively musing “I know I got no choice but to love myself”. The title track will have you tapping your foot along with the subtle drumbeats of the chorus, and jumping up to flail when that restrained energy explodes into action during the chorus.
While songs like “Modern Love” and “Shout if You Know” stand out memorably, others are tougher to access during the first few listens. “I Go Hungry” plods along, slowing the overall pace to a crawl, but tells the tragic story of a man who starves himself before a date and can’t help but over-plan the entire night. In the Amanda Todd-inspired “Kept Down”, Molly Guldemond creates a childlike vocal tone to heartbreaking effect as she addresses the outcasts in this life—and the afterlife. The final track, “Alone and Sublime”, is the slowest of the bunch but also one of the most rewarding if you listen through. Mother Mother has always excelled at creating vivid imagery with their lyrics, and
Very Good Bad Thing continues that trend; there’s a lot of intelligent writing at work here, both lyrically and in terms of composition. It takes a healthy dollop of talent to make a song appear simpler than it really is, and nearly all of Very Good Bad Thing‘s songs can be enjoyed both on an intellectual level and as simple, fun rock/electronic dance tracks.
Very Good Bad Thing is undeniably more polished than Mother Mother’s previous independent work, and trades the country-inspired humour for a darker, more assertive sense of the world. It has headbang-worthy drumbeats and grungy synth riffs at every turn, but combines them with slower bridges to maintain a self-aware sense of the world of rock and roll. While it may be an initial shock for fans of their previous work,
Very Good Bad Thing grows on you very quickly and has quickly risen to become one of my favourite albums of 2014.