Jesus fucking Christ. I don’t even know where to start.
The thing is, I don’t know what I love the most about the recent self-titled release from Wellington, New Zealand noise/post-punk crew Mothers Dearest. It could be Mothers Dearest’s sheer obnoxiousness. Or it could be the way the mind-fucking bass guitar chisels at your sanity with all the subtlety of a clawhammer. It might be that Mothers Dearest’s five songs sound like they were recorded inside a concrete mixer packed with shards of steel and a million fucking nightmares. Does it even matter? I guess what’s important is to note that Mothers Dearest is an absolute triumph of weirder-than-weird and harsher-than-harsh noise.
To be honest, Mothers Dearest’s no-fi abrasiveness sold me in an instant. But it’d be fair to say the level of audio rawness on offer isn’t going to work for everyone. I mean, Mothers Dearest is unapologetically raw, and it features ‘fuck you’ production values that are guaranteed to grate your nerves.
Of course, that’s deliberate, and a crucial aesthetic component. But I should also point out that Mothers Dearest is unapologetically uncompromising and unapologetically strange. More than that, while Mothers Dearest are definitely a noise/post-punk band, that’s not all they are.
On the one hand, the band’s music is vicious, disordered, and intentionally deranged, so it feels right to tag it as noise punk. On the other hand, Dominic McGurk’s relentlessly churning bass plays a massive role on Mothers Dearest, and that adds a heap of strident post-punk into the mix. However, if you listen to the tracks bookending Mothers Dearest (namely “Chemtrails Killed My Daughter Pt. I” and “Chemtrails Killed My Daughter Pt. II”) you’ll hear crashing punk primitivism plus the resounding echo of indie rock.
I don’t mean skittery indie rock. Or jingling or jangling indie rock. I mean that the work of Mothers Dearest’s guitarist Frazer Dozer evokes the indomitable might of legendary NZ indie noise titans The Gordons. Albeit lo-fi as fuck, and twitching and gnashing like a rabid dog.Crank the volume on Mothers Dearest, and the music therein has a sonic weight and a palpable physical effect that definitely recalls The Gordons’ legacy. The Gordons were rightly revered as the “sonically challenging New Zealand act of their generation”. And while I’m not suggesting that Mothers Dearest are direct inheritors of that crown (at least, not yet) they willfully destroy avant-garde influences while smashing post-punk to smithereens, just like The Gordons did.
That's more than apparent on Mothers Dearest’s 11-minute death march, “Dead Pig”. That track is… well, brain-gouging. But you’ll also hear the brutal industrial influence of Killing Joke on a Mothers Dearest track like “Tourniquet”. Mothers Dearest assault “Tourniquet” with withering levels of distortion, and drummer Will Agnew pummels the song, and the band turn an already disturbing scene into a gloriously sickening one.
It’s worth pointing out that Mothers Dearest is a more feral and freakish release than the band’s last, 2016’s Golden Sun's Finest. Mothers Dearest is all the better for the extra filth and psychotic noise, and while it’s out now digitally, it’s also being released on cassette by DIY Wellington label Razored Raw. The label’s founder, Matai Szwed, recorded, mixed, and mastered Mothers Dearest, and as on Szwed’s previous recordings (with his own punk bands or with others), feedback and dissonance are wielded with abandon.
Razored Raw’s releases have been extremely caustic, and in that sense Mothers Dearest is in good company. In fact, Mothers Dearest’s corrosive tone and texture remind me of Pantihero’s deafening debut for Razored Raw. I noted that Pantihero’s release sounded like it could strip the enamel right off your teeth, and Mothers Dearest is equally as harsh. Whether you’re going to enjoy its innards will obviously depend on your tolerance for deliberately challenging music, and there’s no question that Mothers Dearest take enormous delight in making a polarising racket.I mean, listening to a track like “Deicide” doesn’t just make you wonder if eyeballs are bleeding or if there’s something slithering inside the walls; it’s also a deeply uncomfortable song because Mothers Dearest purposefully bend, twist, and smear sonic shit on every melody or helpful musical handhold. Vocalist Jordan Edwards adds a whole other level of discomfort to Mothers Dearest with unnerving lyrics and wails, barks, and grunts that add as much anger as they do strange and even spine-chilling thrills.
Ultimately, Mothers Dearest is one of those releases that you need to hear, and there’s no halfway measures here. You’re either going to embrace all the chaos and the madness, or you’re going to decide it’s meaningless noise. And I love releases that draw clear lines in the sand like that.
Mothers Dearest are eccentric and challenging, and their red-raw music is a hard sell. But no matter how fucked up and ugly things get, Mothers Dearest’s brilliance always shines through.