By: Chris Ball
Mother Feather | website | facebook | twitter | bandcamp |
Released on May 13, 2016 via Metal Blade Records
Every so often someone decides to sew some new sequins on rock n’ rolls suit and throw some glitter in its hair, in the belief that the old fella is looking a little dowdy. It’s always fun to try a new hat on, the trouble starts when those sequin-sewers confuse dressing up with setting an agenda. New York’s Mother Feather, lead by vocalist and visionary Ann Courtney, are on a mission to represent “the dream of New York City“, something she feels has been misplaced of late, with the big apple seen as having lost its edge. Courtney disagrees and wants that weird glamour and grit it’s been famous for to be reborn in the shape of her theatrical quintet.
Perhaps oddly it’s Brian Slagel who’s bought into their vision, and so we find the bands self-titled début released on Metal Blade Records, not normally home to sparkly ‘pop cock rock‘! Metal Blade have been pushing Mother Feather hard, desperate to prove they don’t just know their metal onions. So Courtney has given herself plenty to do beyond having fun and making a living in a rock band, trying single handed to restore the reputation on NYC, plus proving Slagel isn’t a deluded schmuck. Knowing all that it’s hard not to listen out for the sound of big ideas crashing messily to the ground.
Having lived with this album for a week I’m pleased to say that that doesn’t happen, although we have a couple of near misses.
The very best way to hear Mother Feather would be to hear them, unannounced, on the radio, for if you have a single pop-loving bone in your body you will fall for the irresistible ‘Trampoline’, the sassy sophistication of ‘The Power’ or the sunny, sweet smiles of ‘Beach House’. Yes, there are echoes of New York’s past in the riffs of ‘Natural Disaster’ and ‘Mother Feather’ (the song), and there’s a arty experimental side to the band, best expressed in the opening ‘Living, Breathing’, which moves with a dark urgency on an Interpol-esque riff towards a tribal, funky end.
Really though, the bands strength lies in marrying big pop hooks to Courtney’s warm engaging vocals. Like their peers Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Gossip, Mother Feather manages to make rock music fit for the dance floor (how come girls do this so much better than guys?). Courtney’s voice is a mix of the staccato yelp of Karen O and the cooler, pure dry tones of Leslie Feist, and dare I say it, just a hint of Shania Twain sass. (I’ve said it! Don’t hate me Ann, just saying what I hear). The band are tight yet loose enough to stay funky, but rarely produce anything too flashy or gauche – there’s a little guitar wig out by Chris Foley at the end of closing track, ‘Egyptology’, that sounds like the band finally letting loose, but I suspect they save all the showmanship for the live arena.
The lyrics aren’t always as constrained: ‘747’ labours a bit under too many flying based references and ‘They Tore Down the S8 Park’ has a dated 90’s grunge pop style that grates, but mostly the songs are witty and great fun. Pick of the bunch is the strutting ‘Trampoline’ – “I’m your tramp,tramp,tramp,trampoline/Yeah/You’ll hit heaven when you bounce on me“. It’s as gloriously, life-affirming and sexy as that lyric suggests. It will be on any mix CD I make this year. In fact, the more I play this album the more tracks could make that mix – it will sound great coming from your stereo during this summers parties too.
I don’t know about it setting any agenda, but nobody’s coming out of this looking like a schmuck.