The Mother Hips: Green Hills of Earth


By Dainon Moody

The Mother Hips’ invitation on opening track “Given for You” is by no means a subtle one: “If it calms us down, then it’s good / If it amps us up, then it should / Now we give it to you / Now we try it on you.” With nothing but a bit of a dreamy keyboard and the help of some wind chimes (yes, wind chimes—what’s more, it works) to aid the offer to sit down and try’em on for a spell, the Hips are offering a welcoming handshake to the listener into its world that is Green Hills of Earth. By that name alone—one borrowed from sci-fi author Robert Anson Heinlein—the otherworldly suggestion is already there: the music made therein is its own.

It’s too easy to pass off the kind of harmonies the Chico, California-based band pull off here on being completely derivative of The Beatles or The Beach Boys. What proves an increasingly harder task, though, is finding musical groups in this day and age doing anything similar to what the Hips are. While the Brit-pop label seems to wear well in spots, the band seems to be trying quite hard to work against type here; the Americana classification is one that’s been passed off on them before and perhaps Green Hills of Earth is a defiant response of sorts that it’s anything but. In fact, singer/guitarist Tim Bluhm has actually cited the Bee Gees and the Kinks, two far cries from anything alt-country, as some of its biggest influences recording the new album. “There’s no country-rock on it at all,” Bluhm has said. “It’s more pop music and a little more experimental. The lyrics are more like dream style lyrics and the music is a little fancier.” Not a single lyric in the lot would land this group on the radio, what, with songs as seemingly confusing-sounding as “Protein Sky” or as surprisingly plain and honest as “Singing Seems to Ease Me”. Yet, that works for The Hips instead of against it, the collective of its songs allowing for the fact these seasoned professionals are more interested in crafting songs that will stand the test of time rather than a bright flash in the pan, so to speak.

Instead, we’ve a couple of singers in Bluhm and Greg Loiacono (who also double on guitars) who are as comfortable reaching into the upper octaves of the vocal scale (the lovely “Channel Island Girl”) as they are showing off their chops in acoustical jaunts more apropos of the classic rock genre. Really, were Jerry Garcia still leading the Dead today, he’d be a little alarmed at hearing The Hips’ “Smoke”—it’s such a “dead” ringer for the songs his band did, he’d probably start checking around and trying to figure out just when and where he wrote it. But instead of paying direct homage to those rock pioneers, Wilco gets the mention instead, all the while talking about how their smoking—the non-tobacco kind, of course—will lead them up to heaven. Heaven is, after all, as high as one can get, right?

Another hippy-like turn comes on “Pull Us All Together”, preaching unity, forgiveness, and, above all things, love. While the grinding of guitars near its end places the song far, far away from anything Woodstock-related, the lyrics do suggest flowers and peace signs are not far from the ensemble.

“One good thing that bad things do
pull us all together
a shoulder blade to cry on to
pull us all together
a friend is one who comes around
pull us all together
when all your bros just can’t be found
pull us all together.”

It’s a beautiful, lush-sounding world The Mother Hips have created for those adventurous enough to check into it. One that sounds best when on Repeat for a good 24 hours or so.

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