“PINK,” the driving, six-plus minute second single from Philly-based Athens, Georgia transplants Mothers, immediately strikes a more urgent and unsettling tone than the songs on the band’s debut, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. It’s an intense, fast-moving track, creating a psychedelic atmosphere in its swirl of effects and motorik repetitions. And after more than four minutes of build-up and pushing forward without much of a moment to breathe, vocalist Kristine Leschper sings, “I am tired,” just before the song’s sole, built-in moment of rest. It feels necessary and earned, if short-lived: as the tempo picks back up, so does the noise, static and chaos, eventually bringing the song to an inevitable collapse. It’s both breathtaking and unsettling.
“PINK,” though not the norm on Mothers’ new album Render Another Ugly Method, is symbolic of the kind of change the band’s gone through since their auspicious debut. They’ve moved from Georgia to Philadelphia for one, and they’re releasing their second album on higher-profile indie label Anti-. They’ve also gotten a lot weirder. A lot weirder. Though as strong as earlier songs like “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” are, striking an earnest, emotional chord, Leschper’s found a new muse in poetic abstraction and more dissonant arrangements. Tension plays a much greater role on Method, and it takes a variety of shapes, from the linear drive of “PINK” to the haunting open space of “It Is a Pleasure to Be Here,” as well as the juxtaposing time signatures and seamlessly interlocking parts of “Blame Kit.”
Lyrically, Leschper has stepped away from a more direct approach, favoring something that’s evocative while retaining a great deal of mystery and abstraction. As she recently told Treble, “it was put together much more like a collage than the first record,” and some of her inspiration came from the cut-up methods of Burroughs and Dadaist poets. The results are a chilling counterpoint to the songs’ arrangements themselves, as showcased on “Mother and Wife”; Leschper sings “When I touch two fingers to your stomach, you ask if I feel saved,” against a dreamy wash of chords and a vague sense of unease. And in the beautifully surreal “Fat Chance,” Leschper offers “The hands are the organs of feeling” one moment, and asks, “How many fingers must you put in my mouth/To muffle my apology?” the next. These aren’t songs devoid of human experience and emotion, but they’re viewed through a fractured lens. That they’re often so open-ended make them a natural complement to the more complicated dynamics of the band.
While early listeners of the band might find the dissonance and distance built into Render Another Ugly Method qualities that might require some getting used to, Mothers have entered an even more interesting and exploratory stage of their career. Mothers don’t seem interested in playing within the template of conventional indie rock, and that’s made them an even stronger band as a result. So yes, Mothers have gotten a bit weird. And weird is good.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.