Vancouver indie-pop outfit reaches out to L’Astral’s crowd
A familiar riff breaks the chatter at L’Astral in the fourth quarter of Mother Mother’s set. The crowd roars like they hadn’t before on this Friday night; there was a noticeable jolt in the energy of the room. It was the opening of “Hayloft,” the single that defined the band’s presence as an alt-rock Vancouver heavyweight a decade ago.
Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin, the two supporting vocalists, began the electric hook: “My daddy’s got a gun, you better run.” The tune that tells the story of two lovers evading a crazed, armed father leverages it’s vivid simplicity and effervescent melody. There was a gripping imminence in the lyrics thoroughly encapsulated in the breakneck riffs which the frontman Ryan Guldemond, Molly’s brother, handled easily.
The song was released on Mother Mother’s 2008 album, O My Heart, to critical acclaim. While floating in pop-rock waters, the tape was anchored in Ryan’s incendiary confidence and unique melodies that landed the Vancouver band in a saltwater limelight. The lyrics were playful but vivid, the instrumentation was tight and textured. On the following album, Eureka, Mother Mother posted their portion of the pop-rock patch, with Ryan’s voice coating the project in a signature gloss. You could find them at the fringe of pop, tip-toeing between heaviness and more tender moments.
As Mother Mother progressed however, their tonal range became more restricted, moving their voice closer to the indie-pop centre. The band lost some of its shimmer in what could only have been a grasp at a wider audience, sacrificing their charming verses and hooks for lyrical platitudes.
Mother Mother opened with “I Must Cry Out Loud,” the first track on their newest record Dance and Cry, after which this tour is titled. Unfortunately, this album doesn’t travel into much deeper thematic waters than dancing and crying. Ryan traded the hoarse, unhingedness of “Hayloft” for a safer, more anthemic chant borrowing from the trite indie-pop formula epitomized by The Lumineers’s 2012 burden of a chart-topper, “Ho Hey.”
If they opened with the ‘cry,’ they followed up with the ‘dance,’ playing the title track on which the hook starts with “Dance, dance, dance / While you cry / Dance, dance, dance / As you try,” and ends with a repetition of the album’s title. The song has an Apple-commercial cleanliness that is as present in its sound as its lyrics. Not that there isn’t a relatable core to the cathartic idea of dancing while you cry, it would just be nice if the reason for it went further than an escape from a vague “valley of darkness.” “Bottom is a Rock” was a highlight from the new album, taking up the Sisyphytic cycle of life’s highs and lows. The melodies were similarly safe, but the rhythm and chords were satisfyingly heavy.
Sanitary lyrics fortunately came with crisp, rich sounds as the whole band was undeniably sharp. They meshed synths with tight basslines and strong lead guitar in a way that left no frequency unaccounted for. This was especially apparent when they covered “Creep” by Radiohead, with Molly delivering an excellent v
ocal performance. The band’s movement was comparably tight, Ryan’s super saiyan-esque spiked blonde hair and intense features had the audience captivated. During faster songs, they head-bopped, bounced and yelled the words in a way that was oh-so-respectful of me and my camera gear.
Mother Mother was very gracious with the audience, involving them in a way that showed their humility. “This shit is the best form of group therapy there is,” said Ryan. He went on to say how he wished he could sit down with the crowd and pass around a talking stick. Drummer Ali Siadat gave a speech in broken French about the band’s love for Montreal.
Mother Mother’s set was frustrating in its safeness, but seeing hardcore fans getting red in the face going word for word with Ryan, I knew those shoutouts were for them. The band connected with the captivated audience, despite their music becoming harder to spot in a crowd. Still, no moment that night came close to when “Hayloft” dropped, and L’Astral turned into Vancouver in 2008.