For everything about it that seems mysterious or compelling, the title of Mothers’ debut LP When You Walk A Long Distance You are Tired is a rather blatant description of what this listening experience is like – a drawn out, dragging journey that leaves one exhausted. An indie-rock/folk band highly influenced by the expansive instrumentation of Sufjan Stevens, Mothers initially showcase a great deal of potential on this record, having both a gifted vocalist in the form of Kristine Leschper, and an impeccable rhythm section that leaves just enough room within its tightness for Mother’s delicate, reverb soaked guitars. Yet what makes this record so monotonous is the band’s overreliance on tonality and polish. While Leschper’s voice soars and the musicians behind her could not be more in sync with their playing, When You Walk A Long Distance You are Tired lacks anything remotely close to interesting songwriting, each song more meandering and contrived than the next. There is such little substance in the lyrics and dynamics; this album feels like a group who spent more time in the studio finding a way to work in string arrangements than actually writing their songs.
Starting off with the soft whispers of a plucked banjo, the stagnation Mothers suffers from on When You Walk is not immediately recognizable, for it is not until the albums near the halfway point where things begin to feel stale. In fact, with its rolling piano chords and ethereal crooning from Leschper, opening track “Too Small For Eyes” is one of the more interesting songs on the album, the listener almost reeling in empathy as she sings “I hate my body”. Although most of her lyrics are indiscernible through her chesty delivery, Leschper’s cries of self-deprecation on this track establish a relatable uneasiness, not far from the hyper-confessional phrases commonly found in modern emo.
The second song and album highlight “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” is Mothers at their strongest, the four-piece entering at full force with an extremely catchy surf guitar line and a persistent drum and bass groove that unfortunately isn’t sustained throughout the record. “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” finally resolves to a half-tempo last verse which recalls the laid-back noodling of King Krule, although lacks any of the British singers literary prowess. Leschper’s lyrics on this cut are effective, albeit surprisingly predictable at this point, as she again discusses how she doesn’t “like” herself, this time when she’s “awake”. For all their indie-rock studio polish and stature, this band could take lyrical lessons from The Hotelier, for at least they use metaphors in their portraits of self-hatred.
Sadly, after its first two songs, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired runs itself dry of anything noteworthy, as the band transitions from their slow major chord rock songs to the slower, somehow even more boring ballads “Nesting Behavior” “Lockjaw”, and “Blood-letting”, which are made interesting only by instrumental nuances in each song (the blues-rock guitar jam on “Lockjaw”, the ghost-note laden drums on “Blood-letting, the mathy lead on closer “Hold Your Own Hand”). Otherwise, the rest of Mothers’ debut merely drifts through one ear and out the other, with song structures that are predictable and inoffensive, and lyrics that get progressively more juvenile as they go along (seriously, repeating the words “body”, “hands”, “sleep”, and “hate” do not count as a motif). It’s a real shame, for Mothers is obviously a very technically proficient group with a clear artistic vision – their attention to production is one of the few strengths here, most notably in the gorgeous tones that are consistently delivered. Hopefully on their sophomore release, Mothers can take all that shine and transmute it into songs that actually go somewhere and feel purposeful, for the ones which make up their debut are as flat and unwavering as lines out of a history book.
– Andre I.