Friday, January 8, 2016

Negative Qualities

I first discovered Single Mothers in the dying hours of last year's Primavera Sound festival. They were the very last band I saw that week in Barcelona; it was about 3 o'clock in the morning, I was completely knackered, and yet somehow, this bunch of Canadians and their rowdy punk rock music persuaded me to summon my last ounce of energy and jump around a bit before shuffling back to the hotel.

If this unexpected second wind was attributable to one factor in particular, then that factor was Single Mothers frontman Andrew Thomson. His unhinged on-stage behaviour and reckless disregard for his own body was unlike anything I've ever seen before; when he wasn't spitting throat-shredding vocals into the microphone, he was throwing himself around, tumbling over the crowd barrier, and generally trying to ensure that the sting of tomorrow's hangover (I'm pretty certain he was plastered) would be drowned out by the pain of a thousand bruises.

Upon my return from Spain, I more or less forgot about Single Mothers, although happily I did remember to add their latest album, Negative Qualities, to my Amazon wishlist before the memories of that evening (well, morning) faded away.

Fast-forward to the 25th of December and what should I unwrap on Christmas Day but, well, this:

The image above is the cover art for Negative Qualities (the only non-Okkervil River CD that joined my collection this past Christmas), and its primitive cave-painting portrayal of men in their underpants assaulting each other against a backdrop of spilled booze and broken glass serves as a pretty neat summary of what's on the disc itself. This is a punk record that packs a punch, even before Drew Thomson sidles up to the mic; the meaty basslines and trashy drums and gnashing guitar lines make Single Mothers sound like some sort of angry, sped-up cross between Queens of the Stone Age (Overdose in particular reminds me of the first track on Songs for the Deaf) and Urusei Yatsura.

But then Thomson arrives like a feral Craig Finn and I realise that what Single Mothers really sound like is The Hold Steady. Okay, so The Hold Steady probably won't start playing songs as abrasive as Crooks until we chaint them up and force them to eat out of bowls for a few weeks, but the riffs are big 'n' chunky like The Hold Steady's and the half-said, half-shouted vocal delivery is extremely Finn-esque, Just watch the video below and tell me I'm wrong.

Okay, so he sounds a bit more like Patrick from Titus Andronicus at first, but wait for that line about the farmer's market at 0:58 and I'm sure you'll agree with me.

So if you've been looking for a band who sound like a nastier, punkier Hold Steady, I'd strongly recommend that you bump Negative Qualities to the top of your wishlist. What it lacks in stories about Charlemagne and Holly it gains in sheer walloping aggression.

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