Mother Mother: O My Heart

Matt Gonzales

Manic, mellifluous, and moving, Mother Mother's sophomore album borrows the best from the best while remaining startlingly original.

Mother Mother

O My Heart

Label: Last Gang
US Release Date: 2008-09-16
UK Release Date: Available as import

Manic, moving, and, above all, mellifluous, Mother Mother’s O My Heart is a unique specimen in the genus of indie rock: it deals with big issues like existential dread, death, and love without resorting to maudlin clichés, and it gives the listener loads of pleasure in the meantime.

A five-piece from Vancouver, Mother Mother, helmed by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Guldemond, sound like they came of age on a steady diet of the Pixies, Mozart, and William Burroughs. The influence of the Pixies is especially strong on the opener, “O My Heart”, which finds bassist Jeremy Page kicking things off with a line stolen straight from Kim Deal’s playbook. The deeply enjoyable “Body of Years” can also credit a good deal of its appeal to the Pixies, as nearly the whole band gets in on the act. Guldemond himself does it best, channeling a slightly more sane version of Black Francis as he sings, “All the remains of a cadaver of days / I keep hidden away / Keep them there just in case.”

The dark subject matter stands in contrast to the sonic tone of O My Heart, which is kaleidoscopically melodic and buoyed by the honey sweet accompanying vocals of Molly Guldemond (Ryan's sister) and Debra-Jean Creelman. Thematically, O My Heart is all perverse glee, punctuated by descents into sea-deep sadness. It spends much of its time lamenting the shortcomings of both life and those of us stuck living it. Take these opening lines from “Try to Change”:

“Try to change, I try to change / I make a list of all the ways to change my ways / But I stay the same, I stay the same / I will try and try to change but I just stay the same ... / In a decadent age I try to change all my decadent ways but I just can’t help but stay the same.”

The repetitiveness of the lyrics illustrate the futility of the narrator’s efforts while building to a payoff that, of course, ends up just being more of the same. These kind of clever writing tricks would probably be a little irritating were it not for the angelic presence of Molly Guldemond and Jean-Creelman. The appeal of their soft, cooing vocals can’t be overstated, and without them, most of these songs would collapse under their own heavy, compositionally complex weight. The duo holds these songs aloft, though, especially darker ones like “Arms Tonight”, a message from a dead woman to her still-living lover -- the sunniest sounding song on the album.

It’s that kind of witty juxtaposition, along with Mother Mother’s uncommonly keen sense of melody, which sets the band apart from the dozens and dozens of other Canadian indie rock bands that have emerged over the past decade. Mother Mother have an appreciation for irony that goes well beyond words. It’s similar to the kind of thing They Might Be Giants did during their best years, circa Lincoln and Flood, addressing bleak themes in a cheery way that belies the inherent despair. Mother Mother aren’t quite as lyrically smart as They Might Be Giants, but as composers, they boast as much ingenuity as the Giants or any other band cut from the same cloth. Sure, certain moments sound lifted straight from Doolittle. But as T.S. Eliot said, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”




Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I Went on a Jewel Bender in Quarantine. This Is My Report.

It's 2020 and everything sucks right now, so let's all fucking chill and listen to Jewel.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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