The Mommyheads: One Day, Two Album Releases
Art pop legends the Mommyheads have announced that they will be re-releasing their 1994 major label debut, Bingham's Hole, and their brand new record, Future You, on the same day, September 6, 2019. To celebrate, they are sharing the first single from Future You, called "Woke Up A Scientist," an anthemic progressive pop mini-saga that finds lead singer/guitarist Adam Elk channeling his inner Freddie Mercury atop stacked, processed backgrounds vocals that call to mind peak ELO with the harmonic suspensions of Todd Rundgren/Utopia.
"'Woke Up A Scientist' is dedicated to anyone with an unbounded Imagination," says Elk. "In this case, my Son literally woke up one morning and wanted to be a Scientist. I filled in the lyrical gaps with my own interpretation of how the world could benefit from rediscovering the fearlessness of it's own inner child."
In 1994, with three idiosyncratic pop full-lengths under their collective belt, the Mommyheads hunkered down with burgeoning indie producer Peter Katis (Interpol, Kurt vile, The National) to record what would arguably become their calling card release, Bingham's Hole. The album melded the band's singular approach to subverting indie pop with a newfound multi-layered sheen of harmony and melodic invention. The Mommyheads were marrying unorthodox melodic shapes and shards with a gentle precision that was virtually unparalleled amongst their contemporaries.
The sprawling centerpiece "Needmore, PA" is the ultimate summation of this: the band weaves together moody guitar arpeggiation and eerie keyboard intervals to create a melancholic spiderweb. They then swiftly turn this upside-down when the rhythm section and vocals kick in; the drums gently hammering away on the offbeat and the bass flipping the key altogether. And then the lyrical refrain: "I feel like we're two flies in a cookie jar/I feel like we're satisfied but we won't get far" - a brilliant yet harrowing metaphor that renders the contrapuntal density of the musical backdrop downright heartbreaking and poignant. The album was littered with moments of beauty like this, contrasted with a newfound funk sheen to boot (courtesy of a heavy Sly Stone influence). It wasn't until bands like Death Cab for Cutie and Pinback arrived in the early '00s that the indie music climate would begin to boast similar stylistic twists, turns, and collisions.
"The Bingham's Hole record was a snapshot of the Mommyheads, as we were firing on all cylinders back in 94," continues Elk. "Counterpunching our way through the popular music trend's of the day with a young Peter Katis manning the helm of his first production. Hopefully, Future You will be a complimentary 25-year spanning bookend to our long and melodic lifespan."
Fast-forward 25 years: 2019 finds the Mommyheads pairing a reissue of Bingham's Hole with their forthcoming 10th full-length, Future You. In many ways a spiritual sequel to Bingham's Hole, Future You finds the band in a similar place of comfort and mastery in their seamless channeling of eclectic influences. Except this time around, all those influences are present; the band has nothing to hide, and flecks of their 70s heroes are on full effortless display.
Besides the aforementioned opener "Woke Up A Scientist," other highlights include "The Hound," a piercing summation of the ever-growing tension felt by those struggling to wear a happy face despite the existential pain of 21st century American life. "Should we sell each other out?" is the question the chorus poses, and it all feels like a long-lost rock opera theme with its monolithic synth sweeps and deliberate subversion of Rush's "Tom Sawyer." It's a tasteful homage that arrives again in the yearning, clave-laden pulse of "Stockholm", a tribute to the land of the Mommyheads' most rabid cult following.
This delicate, fractured beauty has become a penchant for the Mommyheads and a staple of their sound, and to hear these songs alongside the willful prog extravagance that drives Future Yousignifies the band coming full circle. Together they've assimilated their myriad influences from the 1970s onward to construct an album that's full-bodied in both its array of sounds/ideas and in its highlighting the suffering of the planet.
The 70s influences act as a reminder of the fact that these are musicians amidst adulthood in America; they grew up witnessing the ecological damage done and the loss of humanitarian values, and now they have kids of their own. Paired with their previous full-length Soundtrack to the World's End (2018), the band has redefined themselves through a devotion to cautionary songwriting for the human condition, and their pain is pure and tangible. Their seamless melding of old and new on this album is thus rendered all the more poignant, both in the context of the band's history, and by extension, where we all were then and now.
Release Date: September 6, 2019
1. Only Star
2. Bingham's Hole
3. Fast Enough For You
4. It's OK
5. Needmore, PA
6. Broken and Glazed
7. Queen of the Ant Race
8. Fragrant Rota
9. Hiawatha's Lullaby
10 Pig in a Blanket
12 Lead Balloon
Release Date: September 6, 2019
1. Woke up a Scientist
2. Mutual Enemy
3. One drop of Beauty
6. The Hound
7. Life in a Bubble
10. What are you