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Touch Up

Mother Mother

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Album Review

A remixed, resequenced version of what had been Mother Mother's D.I.Y. self-titled debut from 2006, Touch Up is an engagingly quirky folk-rock record strongly reminiscent of both the Roches and the trio's Vancouver compatriots the Be Good Tanyas. The biggest difference is that one-third of the trio, singer-guitarist Ryan Guldemond, is a boy-type person with a voice considerably less sweet than those of his sister Molly Guldemond and family friend Debra-Jean Creelman: his yelping leads on "Verbatim" and "Neighbour" show why Molly and Debra-Jean's close harmonies are the dominant factor here. But as long as the girls are handling the lead vocals, the songs on Touch Up are charmingly jagged bits of alt-folk very much akin to the Roches' '70s and '80s flirtations with art rock, new wave and modern jazz. The title track in particular, a pop/rock gem with slightly neurotic lyrics about makeovers, would fit perfectly on the New York sisters' albums. On its own merits, Touch Up has its flaws — Ryan's weak lead vocals, some distractingly gimmicky vocal arrangements that seem to be hiding the album's less melodically developed songs — but they're offset by the trio's likeably odd lyrical obsessions and playful ease.

Customer Reviews

Rock out with your rooster out!

Mother Mother's songs tend to alternate between calm, deep-in-your-gut melodic verses and fast, rock-out-with-your-rooster-out choruses. Vocally, they cover a lot of ground - from chirping, shrieking, wailing, sighing and crooning, if you like lots of texture in your music, you'll appreciate their sounds. The album is packed with emotion, and presented in catchy, infectious little packages. What I like most is their humility - they're not aiming for lofty obscurity here in the Canadian music scene. They've managed to have both incredible artistry *and* be easy to listen and connect to, partially due to their surprisingly conventional use of the drums and acoustic guitar. Anyway, here's my take on the tracks: The album starts with Dirty Town, a wild bluegrass-infused ditty that'll have you slapping your knees and nodding your head. Lyrics like "Yeah, I pinched my pennies and I put them down / 'cause you can't plant seeds in a dirty town!" make it a great survival anthem for those living in insufferable little towns in rural Canada (or anywhere). Originally I found this sound too kitschy, but a few listens later I was shrieking "Chop chop chop!" with the best of 'em. Angry Sea is the next standout track; a dark, chilling, powerful ballad with a stunning climax at 1:37 and appropriately ocean-inspired rhythms. Ryan pleads, "Mamma save me / come on and vaccinate me / 'cause I don't want the same disease / that everybody's got these days", a great song for anyone who's had to walk through the mall during Boxing Week. Oh Ana and Tic Toc are both chaotic, fast little tracks that show off the band's whiplash chord changes, harmonies, and frenetic guitar strumming: they may be filler, but they're good filler. Their slower, also under-memorable counterparts are Little Hands and Polynesia. Like my children, I enjoy them while I listen to them, but I might not notice if they disappeared. They strike me more as songs studded with "good parts" than good songs unto themselves. "Legs Away" is a melancholy track ("I say my day is spent / and my spirit's dead") with a repetitious, not-too-infectious melody - ideal for pretending that you're on a back-breaking, soul-seeking journey while walking to (and from!) the grocery store. The layered vocals get heavier and richer at 2:22 or so, with a classy Bee-Gees kind of feel, like tiramisu after dinner. "Verbatim" is a track I didn't care for at first. The chorus sounds decidedly half-baked, and their chirping pronunciation of the lyrics is a little odd. There's some industrial noise in the background that adds a bitter taste to the song. But upon a few more listens, I've decided that I'm pretty stupid, because the lyrics are damn delicious, I'm unable to restrain an impassioned sing-along, and there's a moment at 1:06 that makes the whole thing worth it. "Love and Truth", a sexy, unhappy little tango that opens up at 2:51 into hoarse, heartfelt rock ("Oh, love and truth / where are you?!"), features the exceptional ladies of Mother Mother. I can't praise this song, however, because the album version is so regrettably diluted from the live one. Watch http://youtube.com/watch?v=8_jY3e81QSU and, once the post-orgasm throbbing has faded, you'll agree with me. It doesn't do Debra-Jean's (methinks?) raw, soulful wails any justice. "Neighbour", the ninth track, is arguably the best track on the album. It's creepy voyeurism with a loving touch, like if Silence of the Lambs were a chick flick ("I am your neighbor / I can hear you / I got this tin can, with a string through / and when you're crying, I hear your shakin' breath / and when you're lying, I hear your heart confess") and its lyrics are pure poetry. If you like the idea of a stranger with questionable motives watching you compassionately, then it's a mere $.99 for the track (or $120/hr for the therapist). "Ballcap" is a boyish, plaintive little song - its nice, soothing sound almost disguises the acidic lyrics ("You know that beauty's only skin deep / well, baby, baby, come on and skin me") and, like me, you might start spontaneously laughing on the bus when you get to Ryan's thoughtful, cajoling line, "I wear my ball cap to hide my big eyes / you wear your black dress to hide your big thighs / oh, baby, baby, I'll lose my ball cap / well, only if you expose your loose fat". You can kick it old school with the perfectly serviceable "Touch Up", but I was so disturbed by the video (hairy merman, anyone?) that I can't review this track without feeling faintly nauseous. That's all. Oh yeah - if you don't like them, you won't like The Pixies either.

Brilliance

I went to see the Yoko Casionos earlier this week and despite their immense talent and exciting performance, the night was made that much better by Mother Mother's tight set. I had never heard of them before that night, and after strong votes of confidence from a couple of the Yokos, I stuck around to catch this powerful group. From the first notes of "Dirty Town", I was left standing with mouth agape and ears focused, marveling at the precision and harmonies produced by the group, most namely by the female members Molly and Debra-Jean. Along with Polynesia, the highlight of the performance was surely Debra-Jean's rendition of Love and Truth, which was approximately 500% better than the recorded version (which is also fantastic!). This music will pay you back a thousandfold.

great band!

I just read about these guys in the paper and they had a great review so I looked them up on itunes and every song Rocks!! They have a great beat to them so it's hard not to move when listening to the songs.

Biography

Formed: 2005 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cana

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Playing smart and amiable folk-rock with an alternative edge, biting wit, and a jazzy sense of sophistication, Mother Mother hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and true to their name they started out as a family affair. Guitarist and singer Ryan Guldemond had been writing songs and wanted to start playing them at local clubs. Feeling the tunes needed harmonies, he asked his sister Molly Guldemond to join him. Molly invited her friend Debra-Jean Creelman to add her voice to the mix, and...
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Touch Up, Mother Mother
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