Render Another Ugly Method
Anti Records · September 7, 2018
Render Another Ugly Method sees Mothers experiment further with vocal distortion, poly-rhythmic instrumentation, and more cryptic subject matter.
The worst fear of any artist coming off of a successful debut is a sophomore slump. In the case of Mothers, though, not only does the Athens, GA outfit dodge this all too common sin, they also show considerable growth on their second LP. Their 2016 debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired displayed beautifully haunting vocals and lyricism from frontwoman/songwriter Kristine Leschper, but did little to distinguish the group from equally melancholy contemporary indie-folk. However, Render Another Ugly Method sees Mothers experiment further with vocal distortion, polyrhythmic instrumentation, and more cryptic subject matter.
The opening track ‘BEAUTY ROUTINE’ already sets the release apart from the group’s debut, as it’s clear the band is going for a more polished, yet still intimate, sound. The track is slow going at first, but it gradually burns up into an anxious climax, and displays Leschper’s knack for poetic songwriting along the way. Kristine reflects on the way we often use personal habits to distract ourselves from our problems, singing “I’ve been practicing / Extreme forms of distraction / Brush my teeth / As an act of desperation / Show me a beauty routine / To erase me completely.”
The first half of the album handles the pacing with care and consideration, balancing out low energy cuts like ‘“IT’S A PLEASURE TO BE HERE”’ with more bouncy, energetic cuts such as ‘PINK’ and the lead single ‘BLAME KIT.’ However many tracks, including ‘BLAME KIT,’ also switch abruptly between what could almost be different songs. The driving guitars on ‘BLAME KIT’ are suddenly switched out for an eerie waltz, yet it somehow works. Even when Mothers stay on a single musical motif in a song, you can often find them interlocking multiple rhythms across guitars and percussion in a way that makes them feel like a cross between DEVO and American Football. This, plus their dabbling in ambience and shoegaze, shows that Mothers are determined to set themselves apart from the many Franke Cosmos clones vying for attention on the indie scene.
The record is not without its flaws though. At 57 minutes spanning 11 tracks, this album is a bit of a marathon, and the pacing takes a turn for the worst around the halfway point. Tracks like ‘MUTUAL AGREEMENT’ are much better suited for an out of context listen, since by the time you get it in the album you’re probably starting to slouch in your seat and struggle to keep your eyes open. And if you’re feeling sleepy on this cut, you’ll be in R.E.M. by the end of this record. By the time Leschper opens up the final song ‘FAT CHANCE’ with the lyrics “more slowly,” you’ll probably find yourself screaming internally “no, LESS slowly please!” Even still, the length of these songs are typically a virtue when viewed in a vacuum, and really only drag the album down on a front-to-back listen.
Athens, Georgia has a history of producing great musical acts, and Mothers is no exception. Though the group has since relocated to Philly, they maintain an eclecticness that is distinctly Athens. While the worst sophomore albums disappoint in the face of exciting debuts, the best ones maintain excitement for future projects to come. And that’s exactly what Render Another Ugly Method does for Mothers.