PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Motor Sister: Ride

Anthrax's Scott Ian recruits ringers to revive obscure '90s and '00s hard rock band Mother Superior. The resulting album inadvertently makes the case for why Mother Superior was obscure in the first place.

Motor Sister


Label: Metal Blade
US Release Date: 2015-03-10
UK Release Date: 2015-03-09

Mother Superior was a band that toiled in relative obscurity on the Los Angeles club scene from the late ‘90s through the late ‘00s. Although they boasted famous fans including Henry Rollins (who recruited the trio to back him on his 2000 Rollins Band record Get Some Go Again) and the MC5’s Wayne Kramer (who produced two of the band’s ‘00s albums), the group never really found much of an audience. But one of those famous fans, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, had the power and influence to revive Mother Superior for his 50th birthday party. He contacted the band’s singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim Wilson and recruited drummer Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Armored Saint) and bassist John Tempesta (White Zombie) to join him as a new band to play a set of Mother Superior songs at the party. The gig went so well that the band reunited in the studio shortly thereafter to record the set for posterity.

Now dubbed Motor Sister after the song of the same name, Ride is the resulting record. And it sounds really good. This is clearly a band of veteran players having a good time banging out songs that they really enjoy, and producer Jay Ruston makes sure that every instrument is crisp and clear. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the compliments end.

Listening to Jim Wilson’s songs, even as played by a group of enthusiastic ringers, one gets the sense that possibly the party line as espoused by Motor Sister’s members isn’t quite correct. Maybe it wasn’t that audiences slept on the band because the late ‘90s and early ‘00s were out of step with the group’s ‘70s hard rock sound. Maybe it was that, despite the fun throwback quality of the music, the band just wasn’t very good.

Because Ride certainly isn’t a very good album. The 12 songs presented here are Scott Ian’s personal picks for the best of the best of Mother Superior, and only four of them manage to stand out from the soup of generic, bloozy hard rock. Opener “A Hole” is a burst of energy, with a simple, catchy guitar riff, a powerful driving drumbeat, and a strong guitar solo smack dab in the middle of the song. It’s quick and to the point and very effective. Problems start to appear immediately after that, as “This Song Reminds Me of You” has a not-quite-as-good guitar riff buttressed by a throwaway vocal melody in the verses and a clichéd “pretty” (but not really) chorus where the band backs off to let Wilson’s vocals take the spotlight. But Wilson, while enthusiastic, isn’t a very strong singer. And he’s certainly not strong enough to keep this chorus from sounding cheesy.

It goes on like this for most of the record. Chunky guitar riffs over driving rock beats with unremarkable vocal melodies don’t make for inspiring listening. Ian occasionally uses his decades of heavy metal experiences to add some heft to a riff here or there, and Vera is certainly an energetic drummer (too energetic; his busy, busy fills are often too much of a good thing), and Ian’s wife Pearl Aday adds some very nice backing vocals throughout, but their enthusiasm doesn’t usually make up for Wilson’s lackluster songwriting.

“Fool Around” is an interesting case study, because it’s the one time on the album where the band changes it up but it doesn’t work out. Ostensibly a power ballad without the ballad, it’s a slow 6/8 love song that sacrifices none of the group’s crunch. But the chorus turns on a bad pun -- “Do you wanna fool around? / Do you really wanna fool around? / Do you really want this fool around?” -- that would work as a one-off joke. Since it’s the chorus, though, Wilson gets to repeat the same joke at least four times in the song, which becomes tiresome immediately.

The two remaining instances where the band changes their formula are much more effective. “Head Hanging Low” is anchored by a buzzing guitar riff with a Southwestern flair, and its laid-back feel in the verses makes the song’s chugging pre-chorus and tom-dominated, cymbal and snare-free drums on the chorus much more effective. Album closer “Devil Wind” is probably the record’s true highlight, featuring an acoustic guitar riff backed by a driving bassline. It’s the only time the acoustic makes an appearance on the album, and it’s extremely effective sonically. It helps that Wilson avoids the cliché of dropping the acoustic as soon as the full band enters, keeping it going throughout the song. It only disappears during the recurring heavy breakdown, which is also sonically effective because it’s the one time on the record the band makes the transition from hard rock to heavy metal. “Devil Wind” nicely balances the acoustic and electric sounds and the result is a song that is much different from the mostly run of the mill hard rock that makes up the bulk of the album.

With these semi-famous names attached to the group, Motor Sister is poised to get more exposure than Mother Superior ever did (Rollins was past his peak as a mainstream musical force in 2000 and Wayne Kramer was more of a respected name than a star). But if Ride is an example of the best of what Mother Superior had to offer, I’m not sure the response to Motor Sister will actually be more positive than the ignorant, indifferent shrug that greeted Mother Superior at the time. A well-played, well-recorded album of not very good songs doesn’t actually make those songs any better.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.