Prog. A genre much maligned by many who criticise its serious, noodly, complex, and unfathomable layers of music and lyrical content.
Which is why you should listen to, and purchase, the debut full-length album from Manchester-based sextet Mothertongue entitled Unsongs.
Before explaining why, full disclosure. Louis Smith I know well from our days working together, drinking together, and playing chess together. I also know Mark, Will and Phil, and met Andy at the weekend because we were all togethtet with other friends of Louis for his stag do. However, one will maintain ones objectivity.
So why, I hear you ask, is this something you should at least investigate?
Fun is the answer. Unsongs is a joyous trip through countless genres expertly blended together, coming together like a perfectly made cup of coffee. It’s got overtones of prog, yes, but throughout you’ll find yourself feeling like a little kid jumping in puddles. You’ll not know whether you’re going to get wet, you don’t know if you’ll end up in trouble – but that’s the thrill of it all.
Mothertongue are Louis Smith (vocals, guitar, synths, ukulele), Phil Dixon (guitar, backing vocals), Will Holden (bass, backing vocals, saxophone), Andy Malbon (trumpet, cornet, backing vocals), John Simm (drums, percussion, programming, synths, backing vocals), and Mark Wall (guitar, mandolin, violin, synths, backing vocals) who came together to make life hard for me, and give me RSI whilst copying and pasting their respective contributions.
Opening track King of the Tyrant Lizards immediately sets out the stall of what you’re going to get over the next 12 tracks. From hand claps, key changes, time changes and an arriba call. If that wasn’t odd enough for you, it’s got dinosaurs in there somewhere. Though if you didn’t get that from the title, then…well, I’ll leave it there.
From a Beatles-esque opening straight into a straight simple funk stomp A Poem That the Sky Wrote follows. By the end of it, you’ll find yourself thinking that Stevie Wonder and Prince had an illegitimate child somewhere along the line. My one quibble with this is that the Superstition inspired riff and keys could have been more prominent in the mix.
From a mild detour of math rock in Perfect Zero we come to The Fog, arguably the most conventional track on the album – if, for some reason you skip the breakdown in the middle (which I don’t advise). Smith’s vocals here show that hel surface s can croon with the best, as well as belt them out. Malbon’s brass adds a nice melancholic touch, and the interplay between the three guitars of Smith, Dixon and Wall is sublime.
It’s pleasing to know that inspirations from all over the musical kaleidoscope can be taken and melded togerthter into something which is more than the sum of its parts.
Take Sidescroller for example. It’s 56 seconds long, but one of the most enjoyable pieces on the album taking in electronica and a love of 8-and 16-bit computer game soundtracks.
And so we go back to the fun. You can tell that all six here had a blast when it came to creating this terrible lizard. It bounces around like a mexican jumping bean, but with a purpose. Each change of time, key and style is where it should be, and you can hear the enjoyment behind each and every note.
Don’t be put off. Dive head first, and you’ll surface smiling.
Unsongs by Mothertongue was released on Bad Elephant Music on the 15th of April