Mother Mother – Windmill, Brixton – 19th May

by MV

Here’s a review I wrote for someone else, of a Canadian band called Mother Mother. It’s perhaps a little over-exuberant, but they were good fun.

Five piece pop-rock-Pixies Mother Mother have spent close to five years building a devoted and enthusiatic following in Canada. Based in Vancouver, they’re two albums into a career which has seen them selling out gigs across Canada and the US and signed to Metric’s Last Gang Records.

Tonight though, as part of their belated UK debut jaunt, they’re crammed onto the tiny stage of Brixton’s endearingly quirky Windmill venue. Tucked away on a back street and looking, for all intents and purposes like a miners’ welfare venue from the mid 80s. It’s sold out and heaving for Mother Mother’s appearance. Latecomers are resigned to listening to the band from round the corner, as the venue snakes in a slightly unfriendly fashion away from the stage.

Down the front though, it’s all enthusiasm and love (and sweat dripping from the ceiling) for the headliners. Judging by the reaction, there’s a disproportionately high (and very much welcome – given the band’s low UK profile) Canadian presence in the room. Frontman Ryan Guldemond tears straight into things, an intense yet simultaneously rather comic figure, gurning and yelping his way through the set’s opening phase and barely pausing for breath. An early appearance for second album title-track ‘O My Heart’ gets the night well and truly underway, showcasing the band’s polished-up Pixies sound at its most definitive.

From there on in, the tone jumps back and forth, from downbeat synth-heavy pop to frenetic shout-alongs via some straightforward country-tinged rockers. We get the lush twists and turns of ‘Body’, where the gorgeous backing harmonies, provided by the band’s twin-flank female-synth players Molly and Jasmin really come into their own and a perfectly judged ‘Ghosting’, which (characteristic of the band as a whole) seems perpetually poised on the edge of something manic but stays instead rather lovely and tune-packed.

The latter brings out the acoustic guitars, which can all too often symbolise time for a ‘stripped down’ segment or some other such nonsense. Thankfully though, Mother Mother’s acoustic attack has more in common with the arch-purveyors of unhinged acoustic rock Violent Femmes than any balladeer. It heralds a section of the set that focuses on their debut record Touch Up. The occasionally plain bonkers take on Southern blues-rock recalls everything from underrated rockers Two Gallants to unfairly maligned UK punkers The Crocketts and ever so occasionally, as on ‘Dirty Town’, you can’t help but think of cartoons featuring gun-toting chickens in cowboy hats. I have literally no idea whether that’s a good thing or not. Seems like fun at the time though.

If the mid-set diversion is well-received by the devotees down the front (and it most definitely is), it’s the finale that wins everyone else over. ‘Wrecking Ball’ takes that slightly manic tendency, the penchant for rocked-up Southern acoustica and welds on utterly loveable harmonies that recall the likes of Mates of State. ‘Body of Years’ is Mother Mother at their most conventional indie-rock sounding, yet it’s also the sort of song that sounds like it could fill arenas.

In some respects a tiny gig in a weird little pub in a new country should seem like a step down for a band well on their way to stardom back home but if that’s the case it doesn’t show. The band are seemingly genuinely humbled by the love on offer and happy to offer some back (‘I grew up listening to Guns of Brixton – it’s nice to finally put a name to the face!’).

The closing rampage of debut UK single ‘Hayloft’ exemplifies everything about the band in a tightly-packed bundle of condensed harmonies, strangled yelps and face-pulling. It’s quirky – verging on painfully quirky – but its fizz-bomb energy and synchronised backing-singer theatrics make it utterly joyous and life-affirming. In the indie-rock community (and, some might say, the Canadian niche especially) there’s occasionally a bit too much of a focus on the cool and the credible, but for a band that are happy to focus on the weirder, more oddball side of life while maintaining a shameless love of hummable tunes, you could do a lot worse than celebrating your Mother Mother.

For more information: MySpace.

This review originally appeared on Glasswerk.