Ever since the release of their debut album Touch Up in 2007, BC’s indie rock darlings Mother Mother have been know for their catchy rhythms and haunting harmonies. Three albums and a whirlwind global tour later, they have returned with The Sticks.
The Sticks aims for a cohesive theme, a feature absent from the group’s previous albums; both lyrically and structurally, the tracks attempt to distill the modern world. The general arc of the album aims at the contemporary lifestyle, beseeching man to “take off your cage, and go back to the wild.” The artists’ efforts, however, are mixed. While some songs create beautiful juxtapositions, others fall flat — relying on rhythmic sequences self-plagiarized from their previous work. The album’s lyrics are dark: songs like “Little Pistols” contrast soft violins and acoustic guitar with phrases like, “I want brimstone in my garden/I want roses set on fire.”
“Bit by Bit” is arguably one of the album’s strongest tracks. “Bit by bit I’m going to get my bricks back in the sticks”) skillfully ties in their motifs. It is one of the few non-acoustic songs that does not emerge as overbearing.
Mother Mother should, however, give more consideration to their thematic goals. Tracks are fattened with diagetic noise; the crooning children and cawing gulls do nothing except add bulk. The hypocrisy of an album that lyrically preaches natural simplicity but musically practices self-indulgent excess is difficult to miss.
Without a doubt, Mother Mother knows the formula for catchy songs. Their harmonies are strong and the band uses an assortment of instruments with noticeable adroitness. Still, this formula is not groundbreaking. While The Sticks is palatable and conceptually interesting, it offers nothing we haven’t heard before.