by Erin Crosbie
Vancouver-based rockers Mother Mother have been flirting with a mainstream breakthrough for their last four albums. 2011’s Eureka featured their most successful single, the hypnotic “The Stand”. From here they moved onto their strange, chilly concept album The Sticks, which failed to set the world on fire (though it’s a strong record). 2014 saw the release of their hard rocking, electronically tinged Very Good Bad Thing, still their highest-charting record.
And now, in 2017, we get its spiritual successor, the dance floor rock of No Culture. Preceded in release by its hummable lead single “The Drugs”, there was speculation on what direction the band would take. Would they lean into the weirder elements that made them initially popular, or would they double down on Very Good Bad Thing’s accessibility?
In what can only be interpreted as an attempt to break into that elusive mainstream, No Culture is Very Good Bad Thing dialed up to 11. The opening track, “Free”, fits comfortably on the shelf next to most modern rock. “Love Stuck” takes its catchy, Maroon 5-style chorus and hammers you on the head with it until you’re numb. The title track’s pulsing bass and pentatonic melodies sounds like any generic song popping up on Toronto’s Indie88 playlists.
And it’s not bad! But Mother Mother has always been more adventurous than their contemporaries. Even Very Good Bad Thing transcends the miasma of unadventurous “indie-rock” cliches with some truly bizarre songs and sonic choices. No Culture takes its cues from both modern rock production and trends in electronic dance music, but it ends up improving on neither.
Rating: ** / ****
Erin Crosbie is a writer and music lover in Toronto.