The Mother Hips – Green Hills of Earth

The Mother Hips
Green Hills of Earth

It’s sort of comical that most bands object (one way or another) to being compared to other bands. Usually, even if the comparison is good, the band will pass off some artist bullshit like “we’d like to think that what we have is totally ours.” You get the idea. Of course, the labels seem to like comparisons. After all, namedropping a band in a press release (Fugazi and Tortoise are popular choices nowadays) is an excellent way to get a critic interested in the band. Future Farmer, label for the “alt-country” or “Americana” band as they put it, decided to name drop Wilco, Johnny Cash and the H.O.R.D.E. tour. And to be fair, the band does occasionally live up to its billing, like most bands. Unlike most bands, however, the Mother Hips simply got the name-dropping wrong. Let me give it a shot.

First and foremost, the Mother Hips sound like an excellent lo-fi indie band, a la Pavement (circa 1994) or the Flaming Lips (pick your period). They drop gorgeous little piano hinted numbers like the wonderful (yet criminally short) “Given for You” and the lilting “Sarah Bellum” (please disregard the stupid title). The wistful summer melody of “Take us Out” combines a Malkmus verse with a waning chorus that rocks you to sleep just as much as it makes you sing along. Fortunately, the Mother Hips are capable of much more.

Time for another name. The Mother Hips sound like the Beach Boys. Sort of. They at least sound a lot more like the Beach Boys than most bands do. Though they’ll never be accused of topping Pet Sounds, Green Hills of Earth is this band’s fifth album, and their polish is reflected in their multiple-part harmonies that spice up plain indie rockers that might otherwise just be average. The harmonies of “Pull us all Together” do just what the song says (in a corny way). “Given for You” opens with one voice that almost sounds timid, but before the song hits the 45 second mark, three other voices stream in, and the band gels in a weird, albeit beautiful, way. But on to more comparisons!

At various points, the Mother Hips sound like various rockers from the 70’s, including the Who, Cheap Trick, and maybe (just maybe) the Rolling Stones. “Singing Seems Easy to Me” threatens the Who’s “Substitute” to an inch of it’s life. And the raved-up blues of “Rich Little Girl” almost sound like the Rolling Stones. “Take Us Out” encroaches on Cheap Trick, as does “Smoke.” They do miss once: “Del Mar Station” comes dangerously close to sounding like Don Henley or numerous other 80’s lovemongers.

So really, the label got it all wrong. Here’s the names they should have dropped: Flaming Lips, Pavement, Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, Rolling Stones. Not bad company huh? Occasionally, they do sound a bit alt-country, and I can hear hints of Wilco, but that’s besides the point. The label messed up, but the band, fortunately enough, did things right. The Mother Hips have polish that only comes with age, and songwriting talent to spare. There’s only one or two duds on the album. This band writes lazy ballads and kick-up-the-dust rockers with equal ease. Fans of lo-fi, classic rock and a little alt-country take notice.