Mother Mother – Grief Chapter review

Round & About


Album number nine finds the Canadian band dealing with grief in the best way possible

You’ve probably heard of Mother Mother without even knowing it. After their song Hayloft blew up on TikTok they became something of a viral hit – if the earworm “daddy’s got a gun” means anything to you, then you’ve definitely come across Mother Mother. Hayloft was in fact 12 years old before it discovered a new life as a trend, having appeared on the band’s second album, 2008’s O My Heart. Social media eh? A rabbit hole of wasted time scrolling it might be, but breathing life into old songs is one of its more positive aspects.  

Life is at the heart of Grief Chapter, the band’s 9th or more specifically, contemplating the vagaries of life and the inevitable final chapter. It would appear that Mother Mother has reached something of a midlife/end of life crisis. Not that you would notice if you’re not paying attention, because they have a habit of wrapping up complex and disturbing ideas in finely crafted indie pop. Take for example The Matrix, on the surface it’s a booming, thunderous pop anthem, but at its heart, it’s a defiant and rebellious rejection of the status quo. It’s about making the most of this life because you only get one go around and as vocalist and principal songwriter Ryan Guldemond croons at the start of the song “…you’re going to die”. However, as the song progresses, it veers from nihilism to the spiritual as he starts to ponder the possibility of an afterlife. If all this sounds overly heavy, rest assured, it possesses a hook that is impossible to ignore and a deluge of profanity, which is a pretty fine combination.

Head back to the start of the album, and the basic premise behind most of these songs is laid out in stark fashion. Nobody Escapes, cuts to the chase from the off. You’re dead too. This daunting idea could be overwhelming in the hands of the darker souls out there, but Mother Mother can make heavy concepts feel like a party at the end of the world. If anything, it feels entirely positive. In part, this is down to the band’s capability of mixing tight, catchy rock riffs with dance inspired beats, and vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a kids show. This is at play on Explode, a song whose main refrain is the line “when I die, I’ll let go”, which in plain black and white looks like the kind of thing an Emo band would have no problem in over-emoting (the clue’s in the genre name). But with the twin vocals of Ryan and Molly Guldemond it’s all oddly celebratory. As the song reaches its conclusion, it becomes clear that this is an album not so much about shuffling off this mortal coil, as embracing every moment and making the most of the time we have here.

Pinning the band down to a specific style is quite tricky. They can veer from folk stomp to overblown pop ballad in a heartbeat. They throw in Pixies inspired guitar riffs and vocals (Monkey Gone To Heaven and Where Is My Mind? have definitely made an impression on them), strange off-kilter segues, choral flourishes, punk attitude, classical orchestration and occasional discord just for good measure. Somehow, they can deliver lines like “Innocence is just a bridge to pain” or “What if I just rip out her throat?” and make them sound entirely viable as a chart hit. Part of this is down to the smart vocal interplay between Ryan and his sister Molly, but essentially it points to intelligent and subversive songwriting.

Grief Chapter isn’t an exercise in navel gazing – despite its main subject matter. There are moments of social commentary (Normalize tackles gender and sexuality politics), amusing stoner concepts (God’s Plan ponders what the great creator must have been on whilst devising their Earth project), and self-aware in jokes. Anyone who can consider the end of their life and imagine that anyone attending their funeral will just shout for Hayloft has a keen sense of humour.

Ultimately, this is an album packed with pop songs that address the apparent pointlessness of life whilst simultaneously encouraging everyone to embrace their time here on this rock. Mother Mother might have just written a new chapter in the stages of grief, and it sounds pretty damn fine.

Mother Mother are currently touring the UK
Grief Chapter is out now on Warner Music / Parlophone.

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Walker