LIVE: Mothers @ Soup Kitchen
It’s a Friday. The one day that’s slightly better than the other 6 in the week. Merrily the pre-drinking of premium reasonably priced lager, slightly taught wine, fizz, cider and other liquids are all being pre-drunk. Presumably in flats and other living arrangements in an unanimous ‘do-one’ to the week’s pedestrian headaches and salary motivated activities. With the sabbath of fun on our hands, everything is always a bit more special on a Friday. None the more special as an evening well spent watching bands in the basement of Stevenson’s Squares’ beloved Soup Kitchen.
Tonight, we are blessed with the intoxicating experimentalism of Athens, Georgia’s: Mothers. Touring their sophomore album, the excellent Render Another Ugly Method one of this year’s blistering sonic highlights. If that wasn’t good enough also on the bill two of the most exciting bands that Manchester has to offer the mighty Chew Magna and Blanketman.
Kicking off proceedings with a hefty serving of snap, crackle and fuzzy pop the awesome Chew Magna, who played an absolute stormer. Taking their name from the sleepy village of the same name there was nothing sleep educing about the band’s set. Currently playing songs from their recently released ‘White Hotel Ep’ recorded in the drug den of the same name, they play 6 songs all of which seem to be sonic love letters to the great idols of American Indie rock I.e. Pavement, Guided by Voices, Broken Social Scene etc. Although the influences are clear, this isn’t parody or poor imitation like say Yuck for example who attempted something similar with their music but lacked the heart and personality to pull it off. Chew Magna do the opposite of this.
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They are still uniquely English as the name suggests as do singer’s Laurie Hulme’s vocals, each song stands alone as an ode to a well spent childhood in Northern towns where more than a hand full of Sonic Youth records were hanging around on bedroom floors. With the subject matter of their songs casually swinging from Jean Paul Sabre to Sylvia Plath to “compulsive liars”, they’re a well-read band with much to say both sonically and lyrically. There was even a few non-ironic tapping guitar solos and pure shredding which only added fun the proceedings, plus a disgustingly tight rhythm section whose drummer played so hard a symbol fell off mid song yet they still carried on. They were really the only faultless band of the evening and the only thing I wished was that there were a few more people in the audience to witness the great thing I’d just witnessed. Fun, brilliant fuzzy pop songs that Alex Chilton would be proud to have in his arsenal; go see Chew Magna and if you don’t you deserved to have “I’m really lame” all over your forehead for 3 weeks.
Next up the hotly tipped MCR Live favourite Blanketman, if you haven’t heard of them already you may have come across them in Friday’s edition of the Manchester Evening News proclaiming them as one of Manchester’s best up and coming bands. From their performance I’m not going to disagree with our local newspaper’s claim. One did feel I was seeing a different Blanketman from which I’ve seen in sweaty basements around the city. There was much less jumping around and slam dancing at this performance as the group settled on more subdued yet hypnotic set. Opening with the angry yet meditative Gridlock Fears (recently recorded by the excellent gang at Dead Basic Studios in the city’s Northern Quarter), the influence of Anton Newcome was definitely felt in the building. Before one was allowed to slip into a deep paisley underground inspired twangy haze, Blanketman would kick you awake with punchy numbers like 5 Days a Week and Flip It Over. These bangers in particular I saw a few people singing along to, a testament to the band’s growing popularity. They look excellent, sound fab and aren’t afraid to take a few set risks despite their growing popularity. They really added something ace to the evening’s pleasantries.
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Finally we have the magnificent Mothers lead by the brilliant sprawling song-craft of Kristine Leschper. It would be easy of this reviewer to make note of the band being from Athens, Georgia home of fellow genre-bending hypnotists Deerhunter and make comparisons to their work, or even suggest that the band sound like a bizarre amalgamation of early 80’s R.E.M., Pylon, Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops and Joanna Newsom. These all being the notes I made on my phone on my phone whilst watching the gig and I still think is somewhat true but in hindsight I don’t think comparing Mothers to a bunch of other bands really gives an honest representation of the uniqueness of the experience of seeing the band.
The cocooning slow-core experimentalism was somewhat torturous and agonising but in the most amazing way possible. To explain what I mean by this, the band would tease you with little blasts of frantic and explosive poly-rhythms, note and mind-bending fireworks of noise. Then halt. The band in stilted in tableaux. Not moving in a self-imposed Pinter pause whilst Leschper would switch between guitar and keyboard with slow painful haunting droning anti-ballads. The band would then unfreeze themselves and join in the dream tapestries of sound and tease you further. None conformists to the rock tradition and audience expectation, Mothers are the forerunners of a new kind of audio experience and one of the most exciting and original acts I’ve seen for some time. I urge for you to buy all their records and merchandise so this beautiful experiment can be continued for the world’s benefit. Do it up suckaa!