Album Review: Mothership - "Mothership"
Just read the press release for Mothership and you’ll learn there’s a lot to like about this band. (And for clarity’s sake, let’s get one thing out of the way; this band has nothing to do with George Clinton.) There are the stock-in-trade quotes about what the band is and what they want to be. There are all the conformist comparisons to who the band sounds like and allusions to who inspires their composition. All of that is informative and helps give some tangible frame of reference to the band (by no means am I insulting the publicity and promotional teams,) but it doesn’t speak to the band’s desire or heart.
However, the critical information that grants true insight into Mothership is seeded in plain sight throughout the release: this is a band started by two brothers, Kyle and Kelley Juett, and their dad.
While the dad has since been replaced with Judge Smith on drums and does not appear on this debut eponymous record, his mere affiliation provides the necessary critical lens from which to judge Mothership as artists. It establishes the love and pure, unwavering fanhood for the classic rock and heavy metal that Mothership worships. The production of the record is rough around the corners and downright frayed in some portions, but somehow the clouds deferentially part and “Mothership” feels like “Kill ‘em All” in the sense that they are both gleefully unpolished labors of adulation (and before someone puts words in my mouth, I am not suggesting that Mothership is the second coming of Metallica…not yet, anyway.) The dog-eared edges of the simple riff from “Angel of Death” (NOT a Slayer cover,) take you back to the building blocks of rock and metal, that solid crossroads where Motörhead planted a flag so many decades ago. This riff is custom built for guitar solos to spring forth like vipers, and the Juett brothers don’t disappoint. The solos and exhibitions aren’t technically overwhelming or supercharged with insane velocity, but they fit damn it, and sometimes that’s more important.
There is an intrinsic, instinctive likeability in the music of Mothership, particularly for those well-heeled in the sludgy fuzz rock of the late 1970’s. Not so different from bands like Devil to Pay or Crowned by Fire, Mothership utilizes that warm, rounded guitar tone that not only is reminiscent of Astrovans with murals and quadraphonic speakers, but sounds exactly the same at any volume. Obviously, this is an excuse to listen to “Mothership” as loud as possible. Just scope out “Cosmic Rain” and as the bass thuds by you’ll find it nigh impossible to not feel the rhythm projecting through the notes as though through a wall of Marshalls. At the very least, you’ll tap your foot. There’s a lot of groove to be had here, as Mothership demonstrates a fanatical understanding of the relationship between heavy metal’s power and rock and roll’s traditional sensibilities.
Listen to throwbacks like “Elenin” or “Eagle Soars” and you’ll find yourself transported to a hazy din of a basement dive bar somewhere, buried where the uptight building owner doesn’t want the upstanding general public to associate with the counter-culture detritus of rock and roll. It’s about 115 degrees in the basement and yet it’s stuffed to the gills with people who want to feel the release of a great night out at a show. It’s louder than hell and no one can hear themselves think above the crushing weight of power riffs; attractive women dance unencumbered while friends nod in unison to the beat. This is the dream of Mothership, and it’s what they burned into their record.
The only flaw that mars Mothership’s effort is unfortunately one that runs the length of the album. The Texas-based band does not have a great vocal presence. The singing is the flat note of the record’s entire experience and while it can be overlooked, it cannot be avoided. The saving grace here is that many bands simply would have turned to generic screamed vocals in lieu of an accomplished vocalist, but Mothership is sticking to their musical vision. Resisting the temptation to take the easy way out was and is a good decision for the band, since guttural grunts would do little for their sound. So you have to cut them a little slack.
Mothership did a hell of a lot of great things for their debut record, and their passion for their musical paradigm is an ever-present reminder of why we all feel so connected to our music in the first place. With a little refinement, big things could be down the road for Mothership, and you should hop on the bandwagon now.