For my disclaimer about Mothertongue, please see my review of their debut album Unsongs here
Manchester’s Mothertongue have released their second album Where The Moonlight Snows. Two years on from their debut Unsongs they continue plowing the field of their choice – blurring the lines between prog and pop; the harvest reaped from Where The Moonlight Snows is bountiful indeed.
Where Unsongs was frenetic energy barely contained within the medium of song & ideas by the bucketful, album number two finds Louis Smith, Phil Dixon, Mark Wall, Will Holden, Andy Malbon and new drummer Filip Pardej more focussed, edited well and, comfortable in their collective skin. This comes across prominently in two main ways.
Firstly, Smith’s vocals display less fragility and a dollop more confidence.
Secondly, the production feels more consistent. Unlike Unsongs, Where The Moonlight Snows was conceived and delivered as a cohesive project.
Opening track Blue Wicked Heart is perhaps an unconventional way to start things. That’s perhaps indicative of the Mothertongue ethos. Malbon’s mariachiesque trombone adds a layer of melancholy to the whistful rhythm and melody. Listening to it you really do wish that “they’ could rearrange the days to spell your name.
Throughout the album there are little lyrical flourishes that create such vivid imagery that they could have come from a novel. The Isle of Not Quite Right is the source of album’s title:
“Where the moonlight snows/And the river flows upstream”
Ofelia contains the frankly disturbing “I want to open up my belly/Let snakes come out” and its first-person perspective makes it more arresting.
Behind the lyrics lies the music. Gone are the many-individual-songs-into-one approach from Unsongs; another example of how Mothertongue have developed. For fans of the prog side of life, you’ll be kept happy by time changes. For those more pop-orientated you’ll be inundated by melodies and earworms. For fans of music overall you’ll have numerous joyous moments that multiply with each listen. Whether it’s the three-pronged guitar attack of Smith, Wall and Dixon or suddenly realising how much like mercury Holden’s bass lines are, each replay unwraps something that you didn’t realise was there before.
One thing that you will realise during your first listen is that it is an album of two halves. The first half is the more poppy, the second more proggy. The fulcrum of this swing is Shipwreck Song, which finds Smith and his guitar lamenting the sea.
It’s Getting Weird opens the second half and you’re struck by how confident and content the band are. This continues with Through The Bullet, which adds a groovy yet bluesy noir sentiment to proceedings. The Isle of Night Quite Right introduces hypnotic electronics into the mix, and Earthbound is a sundrenched 1960’s harmonised romp.
After a few weeks spent listening to this on and off, song at a time or in full I can safely say that Where The Moonlight Snows is a cracking album that shows growth AND potential yet t be fulfilled. Out of the two albums so far it’s Mothertongue’s best – but not the best that they will make.
Where The Moonlight Snows by Mothertongue has been released on Bad Elephant and can be purchased via the band’s Bandcamp.
You can also see them live at The Globe in Glossop on the 6th of May; tckets can be bought here.