Motherland – Better Than This

Better Than This

Motherland are from Scotland, or Wales, or something like that. I am not saying there isn’t a difference between those places, its just that it wouldn’t matter if these guys were from Mars – nothing could change a few very obvious things: Motherland have been listening to a “motherload” of raunchy, mainstream, American-pop radio for a long time. One particular era they did not miss was 1994-1997. This was the era that found streams of pretenders flying in overnight to try to take advantage of the pop success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam; bands like the Goo Goo Dolls, Collective Soul, Counting Crows and even Hootie and the Blowfish puked out semi-sonic to all-acoustic mush that flooded our airwaves and pelted our eardrums with agony. These bands set the “standard” for this new “mush” rock that we see continued today with all those Third Eye Blind-a-likes, and Motherland has unfortunately followed suit as well.

That said, I am sure if the guys of Motherland are reading this, they might want to stop here, because this isn’t going to be pretty (though, like the album, I WANT to keep it pretty – I just don’t think I can). The terrible thing is, these guys seem like really nice people. Guys you wouldn’t mind having a beer with and talking with about, oh say, the latest World Cup Soccer results and which fans were the biggest hooligans. Unfortunately, this isn’t a bar room recording of these lads drinking ale and talking about their lives – it is an album of very over-produced and mediocre songs that sound something like what a Collective Soul demo might have sounded like in 1996-97. Yes, I said Collective Soul “demo.”

There isn’t much point talking about individual songs here because they all sound pretty much the same. These are light and fluffy numbers. Some have a sprinkling of electric guitar here and there; others have slight string arrangements. All these songs seem to have an acoustic guitar in there somewhere. My guess is that they were written on the acoustic as well. Now, again, ALL these songs aren’t the same, they just SOUND the same. The production is brutally average and very dry for a self-produced album. The snare drum, for instance, on every song, is just a dry, lifeless “thwap.” As so often happens on a self-produced album, there is just no one there to bring these guys back when they stray. There isn’t anyone there to say, “hey, that’s been done a thousand times already,” or “that bassline is way too buried.”

The singing, (gulp) is hyper-melodramatic in that Collective Soul kind of way – very chesty, breathy singing with that “I’m gonna’ cry any minute” sound. Anyhow, if the guy singing chilled a bit, it would help a little, because some of these songs aren’t poorly written; but, as someone famous once said, “its all in the presentation.” And the presentation here is poor to average at best.

I think if Motherland were to improve for the future, they would have to throw the whole kitchen sink out and start from scratch. Dump the chesty, melodramatic vocals and find a producer who could liven things up. Of course, if their goal is to make it on to MTV with some cheesy video, they are headed in the right direction and should stay the course – just don’t expect any flattering reviews from indie-rock zines that focus on music that endeavors to be artistic. If the goal is to make quality, original sounds and music, Motherland have a lot of work to do. For their sake, I hope they’re “better than this,” and I hope this is just an attempt to create an MTV/mainstream radio release.