“Why would I want to write for SPIN? I can’t even write out the band name Fucked Up let alone write that Fucked Up’s last record fucking sucked ass.”
So the fine people over at Starcleaner Records sent me a bunch of their back catalog to check out and possibly write about. So far, I haven’t gotten past the first one by San Francisco’s all girl, all power, all trio Songs for Moms.
Songs for Moms – The Worse It Gets the Better (2007 Starcleaner)
As far as I know, I’m not a mom. I am a little addicted to this record though, even if the songs aren’t for me. They should be for me, though. I have a thing for a chicks with guitars, chicks with basses and chicks that play drums. And also chicks who can curse and not get offended at being called a chick. Alright, so I’m an asshole. I also value more than anything on this planet people who speak their mind regardless of what genitalia they were decided to have at the great coin flip in utero. So after listening to The Worse It Gets the Better, the 1st LP from Songs for Moms about a hundred and fifty times, one thing is definitely clear: these chicks can curse AND say what’s on their mind. Both are a lost art in this rockroll game, but they fucking do it.
To give you a sense of what I’m talking about, the first track is titled “1906” and it’s a punkoustica waltz. It might be clean electric guitar, but my ears aren’t good enough to tell the difference. The two singers Molly and Alanna sing “Why are we so afraid to die when so many of us are not living?” They each sing the line while the other intertwines around it. It’s not exactly harmonizing and it’s not exactly group vocals because the inflections are different. OK maybe it’s harmonizing. Regardless, it’s to the point. If Dylan proved you can have a catchy song without a single rhyme, Songs for Moms prove you don’t need metaphors either. You can say what you mean, direct. Imagine that!
Now anyone who read the first paragraph might think, alright, why is it so important this band curses? Lots of bands curse. That’s actually not the case, though. Think about it. I think Nu Metal severely hurt the whole idea of cursing in music with guitars because your average jerkoff “indie” rock band does not swear. So when I first heard Molly or Alanna, I’m not sure which is which when singing, singing the opening to “My Skin is a Graveyard” very sweetly: “We were all just fucking crazy singing our cares away” and the song launches into this Corona/Pensacola,Florida/Anthem for the Manic, I thought it was the greatest. I don’t get goosebumps that much, but I was goosebumpin’. I didn’t get to the next song for a while cus I had it on repeat but when I did, I realized the next song was even better. This time they didn’t bother with the little intro, just straight into a killer 1:43 angry punk song with a song title to rival the ages, “”Don’t Live With Your Lover or Love with Your Liver.”
The same way the best California bands from the early 80s broke apart the binding chains of hardcore (Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Saccharine Trust), Songs for Moms is doing to the very common, very bland sound of indie rock pop. You’re not gonna hear this on a goddamn iPod commercial like the Thermals or bound for the TV Vivian Girls, but that’s only because it’s too honest. Though it would get a lot of moms to shit their pants if a song like “The Places We Love” played on a commercial during an episode of Lost: “We are so fuckin old. When did you start pretending you didn’t know? We are so old.” And it won’t be the “fuckin” that gets them to shit their pants, it’ll be the realization that they are fucking old and that they should be doing something more with their life. But who fucking knows? Maybe the band is right: the worse it gets, the better. For these songs, that ain’t the case. Side A kills. Side B starts to run together a little with “Coney Island” and the “Rain Song,” but the all acoustic untitled last song brings the album into a higher tax bracket altogether. It reminds me of the anti-beautiful ending to Fugazi’s The Argument where the music ends on a relatively positive tone and if you aren’t paying really close attention, you’ll miss the depression. But if you think about it in context to a band and to this group of songs, it ain’t sad anymore. You realize the singers are just as far gone as you are and what they dislike or fail to understand in this world IS what gives them meaning.
My picks: “Don’t Live With Your Lover or Love with Your Liver,” “My Skin is a Graveyard,” “Expendable,” “Untitled Last Song.”
More Reviews to Come. Check out the Expendable MP3 above.