In Mother, Mother’s latest album Very Good Bad Thing the outsiders of the world look upon the socially-accepted insiders – not with such tired material as jealousy or unrequited desire – but with pity, empathy, and occasional terror. This is the nuanced gaze of the wild child enticing the overworked city slicker with paradise (“Monkey Tree (UK Mix)”). This is the hunter purging himself of rage before the self-made beast is at his throat (“Have It Out”). This is the lone wolf viewing the lost souls of the world not as sheep to cull but fellow canine brethren to befriend (“Kept Down”). And all of this wonderfully raised-by-wolves point of view is tempered and expanded upon by Mother, Mother’s shamelessly playful pop.
The sound is predominantly electric and dance-ably rhythmic. There are synthetic interludes that could easily have accompanied horror films from the 70s (“Very Good Bad Thing”, “Shout If You Know”), and beats that could’ve been bumping out of car stereos in the pop-loving 90s (“Get Out the Way”, “Kept Down”). It all blends together to create a pop-rocky road, with something new to discover in every creamy spoonful.
“Reaper Man” is a hybrid of dark 80s synth pop and equally 80s sci-fi instrumentation that prowls along at its own animal pace, the vocals observing and confessing the prime truth which living as an outsider has revealed twice-keenly to the narrator, namely that “I got no choice but to love myself”. This feels like advice, delivered sincerely to the anonymous insiders who may be listening along. “Monkey Tree (UK Mix)” is a strongly catchy, fun single that touches on the theme of relocating to the natural world, which Mother, Mother has explored before with great success. However, this song is nuanced enough to encourage a simultaneous interpretation of an outsider luring a normative-grounded individual away to an unconventional life. The chorus’s entreaties to “come into the jungle where the drugs and the drinks are free” do not undercut the message with a moral sting. There is no judgement in this offered world, merely acceptance and gentle sympathy.
Although some of the themes on Very Good Bad Thing overlap with those from previous albums – the catharsis of rage (“Have It Out”), willingly semi-sadomasochistic romantic entanglements (“I Go Hungry”), etc. – long-time Mother, Mother fans will notice that there are few songs here that sound much like previously found fare, with some exceptions (“I Go Hungry”, “Shout If You Know”). Far from being a disappointment, the new electric instrumentation feels like a perfectly healthy, natural branch sprouting off the old trunk.
“Alone and Sublime” is the most sedate song of the album, a melancholic introspection smattered with a star-like glitter of electric synth, solemnly questioning the outsider’s life: “is it a blunder to die/alone and sublime?” This solemn morsel of mental nourishment pairs so well with the previous offerings of bright, saucy sound meals. Though it will come as no surprise to fans, this is pop that truly feeds the soul once consumed, and does not leave it hungry afterwards. Bon appétit.