[24 February 2014]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Just about every write-up about Special Explosion’s The Art of Mothering EP makes reference to how much this Seattle group sounds a whole lot like Built to Spill. You can hear the definite influence on “Clotheslined”, the second track on the disc, which sounds an awful lot like “The Plan” from Keep It Like a Secret, just without the pop and pizzazz of that particular song. That’s not to say that “Clotheslined” isn’t an affecting song; quite the opposite. It is its own beast. The thing that may sound striking is that there are female vocals providing embellishment and gravitas to the piece. But there’s more to this band than mere Doug Martsch flattery. “Kingdom”, with all of its start-stop herky-jerkiness, sounds a bit like modern day Rush, if that comparison may be made. And, certainly, when you listen to The Art of Mothering EP for the very first time, there’s a palpable feeling of excitement that builds, as you realize just how confident these guys (and girl) are as musicians.
The sad thing is, The Art of Mothering EP doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny upon repeated listens, upon which you realize that the group doesn’t have much up its arsenal other than the interplay of male-female vocals, which feel sadly underused at times, or the obvious comparisons to Built to Spill. That’s not to say that The Art of Mothering EP isn’t a whole miss. It’s just that once you get beyond “Clotheslined” or “Kingdom”, there’s not a great deal that sticks with the listener, and you get the sense that this is a band that is still finding its footing to some extent. Even “The Art of Mothering Pt. 2”, which closes the extended play, dredges the feeling of another lost Built to Spill track. Considering the fact that said band hasn’t put out an album since 2009, this short disc might be an adequate taster for those looking to hear something that closely resembles the Boise-based outfit of which we speak. However, it’s clear that if Special Explosion wants to progress and build its sound, it’ll have to do more grunt work in the songwriting department than mere carbon paper copying. Otherwise, it’ll might as well be little more than a glorified cover band.