Review By Alex Slakva
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Let’s talk about the second most ambiguous music genre (after EDM, of course): punk. For the sake of brevity, let’s be broad. It is not secret that the most recent, relevant punk acts tend to take cues from the happy-go-lucky Pixies, or subscribe to one of the several sects in the church of latter day Violent Pacification, such as thrash cross over or power violence. It is seldom that a band manages to do a decent job going back to the roots of social satire and boyish anarchism that made me and generations before fall in love with punk. This is definitely the refreshing vibe that Single Mothers give off on Negative Qualities.
What immediately sets Ontario rockers apart from their competitors is that Negative Qualities is an album driven by clarity of the lyrics and attitude of the vocal delivery from Andrew Thompson. In a sentence, it’s as if he’s channeling Henry Rollins and Keith Buckley and if you are a embittered moleskin scribbler who owns a microphone, there is a great probability that you will dig this album. If the previous sentence doesn’t make sense, Marbles is an excellent track to dig into. “I don’t care about your first intentions/ I don’t care about your type writer ribbon/ I don’t care these punctuations” just reeks of self righteous angst that anyone who was once a teenager relate to. The most savoury part is that the following verse “I’m a hypocrite and I’m okay with it” implies being of the song’s self awareness which goes back to the aforementioned theme of satire. ‘Half Lit’ is another Black Flag-esque 4/4 riffing into an apathetic ballad about drug abuse and being blacked in the basement, which will strike a chord with many and be the causation for skanking and circle-pits.
‘Crooks’ is while excellent, is a curious toe outside of the established line. It almost sounds like it could have been a Distillers track (if they had a male vocalist), I think is a cool deviation from the first half of the album. It and ‘Patricide’ give off a foreshadowing that Single Mothers is definitely capable of more than the first half of the album hints at.
For the unconvinced, look at the post rock, Title Fight-like track ‘Ketamine’. This is another lyrical tranquilizer that will make show goers down beers and raise fists. It is absolutely difficult to declare a single best track as ‘Overdose’, ‘Marbles’, ‘Blood Pressure’ and even ‘Money’ are really on point. It is likely there is a minority that will say the days of 3-4 piece punk bands attempting to replicate the simple musicianship 80’s/90’s song –writing are long gone.
Negative Qualities is the undeniable proof that they are wrong. Single Mothers reunited a few years ago and signed to Dine Alone records in 2013, so they (hopefully) have the resources to tap into the potential they hint at, on this album. Watch out for these guys in the upcoming year.