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Mother Mother... we're scared

Vancouver indie-rock band's fourth album is a gloomy set about the uncertain times we live in

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Is Mother Mother's new album The Sticks a potential soundtrack for the end of the world?

If you ask frontman Ryan Guldemond, at the very least the Vancouver indie-rock band's fourth full-length, which came out in September, is a reflection of the times we live in.

"Much of the themes wrap around this longing to escape the clutches of the modern world and get back to 'the sticks' -- retreat to a simpler, almost more logical place," Guldemond said in a recent interview.

"You can also take it in a different direction, metaphorically. It's about the peace of the soul -- the soul's tranquillity, and how it can be disrupted by all this information and vapid communication flying around via technology. I think it's a good thing to meditate on: To get back to the sticks, the root of your soul."

The Sticks kicks off on an ominous tone, the piano-laden Omen speaking to the perils of modern times, tidal waves and Anti-Christs -- all very "2012" -- before the title track kicks the album into full, gloomy gear with a drum intro lifted straight out of Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks.

"There's no denying the drum beat, especially the sonic flavour it took on in the studio," Guldemond said. "The demo was a bit more dry and hip-hop-inspired. You get into Mushroom Studios with that big ambience and the fat bass drum and it just makes sense to summon (John) Bonham. Why fight it?"

The metaphor of "the sticks" (which, in an "uncanny coincidence" also summons Led Zeppelin IV's artwork) appears throughout: From Bit By Bit, which talks about building a cabin in the woods, to To The Wild, which ends the album with a return to the natural order and with piano notes and children's chatter echoing Omen.

While Mother Mother's latest is much more sonically eclectic than 2011's Eureka, which Guldemond says was the band's attempt at making a more cohesive-sounding album, The Sticks' conceptual streak runs deep throughout.

"I wrote Bit By Bit, which felt like the benchmark piece of the album, the anthem," Guldemond said. "It really resonated with the theme of the album. But I didn't like the original chorus, and it worked really well for The Sticks. So that song gave birth to the title track. After I had those two coupled together, I felt the possibility to elaborate on that concept. To The Wild came as a direct offspring of that intention. Waiting For The World To End is a very old song, so it was coincidental that it was in line with a post-apocalyptic theme. It's stuff to think about in this era. Nothing is for certain.

"I hope it connects on a big level, only because we want to share music and share what we do, not because we want to drive Porsches. Although I'm staring at my Mazda Precidia thinking a Porsche would be all right. Anything would be better."

Guldemond hands out that quip with the same deadpan tone that can be found in some of Mother Mother's songs.

That's not to say it's a negative thing, but there always seems to be a bit of a sarcastic layer to even the band's poppier, seemingly happier outbursts.

Single Let's Fall In Love is almost an anti-love song, a bumpy, guitar-driven rock 'n' roller that almost takes the loving feeling out of the song, the band essentially arguing that if everyone else is falling in love, even monkeys and "idiots," why shouldn't they?

Happy is about loneliness, drugs and altered states, stuff that will immediately put a smile on your face.

"I think the best way to make a sorrowful point is to draw from the impossible optimism of the subject," Guldemond said. "You put that out front and then you see it all for what it is, whether it's love or this lust for a satiated happiness -- this kind of blissful idiocy people strive for. That's life in a nutshell: It's fun, but it sucks."

-- Postmedia News Service

CONCERT PREVIEW

Mother Mother

Burton Cummings Theatre

Dec. 4, 8 p.m., with Hannah Georgas

Tickets are $27.50 and $43.50 at Ticketmaster

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2012 C8

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