Straightforward, heavy and almost making a billboard of their Texan-ness, the trio Mothership gleefully meld AC/DC stomp with ZZ Top boogie on their self-titled debut. Brothers Kyle (bass/vocals) and Kelley (guitar/vocals) Juett beat out a boozy but melodic rock classicism, taking a familiar approach in a familiar format and updating it with a crisp, engaging mark of their own, and following its initial release (short review here), Ripple Music stepped up to give Mothership‘s Mothership its due in the form of a full release. As Mothership — the lineup completed by drummer Judge Smith — are currently embroiled in a tour with Gypsyhawk (dates in the flyer below), I thought I’d take an opportunity to give the record another look for anyone who may not have had the chance to catch it the first time out.
At eight tracks and 45 minutes, Mothership give their material plenty of time to flesh out. What are essentially classically-structured heavy rock tunes, that more than half of them should reach over five minutes long can come across as somewhat surprising, but I wouldn’t call Mothership‘s time misspent. Kelley‘s shredding solos are bluesy and rife with the kind of unscripted energy of someone who’s honed a natural talent, and when both brothers come together around a central riff with Smith behind, as on the side A closer “Angel of Death” — even the Ripple CD is broken into sides, as was the initial self-release — the groove is undeniable. They’re prone to swagger, but no more than is appropriate or called for by the songs, and with touches of classic metal and a crisp production by Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, who also makes a guest appearance in the former capacity on the eight-minute finale “Lunar Master,” Mothership was basically an album waiting to be picked up.
In my original review, I said that the album grew redundant after a while. I remember listening to it for the first time, in the car en route to Michigan ahead of hitting up the Days of the Doomed II fest last year, and thinking that the formula got stale as side B started to wind down. Revisiting the Ripple Music version now, I don’t necessarily disagree (lot of good it would do), though I think the issue might actually stem more from the initial impression made by opening instrumental “Hallucination,” which does little to pave the way for the intensity to come even with the relatively staid (again, relative to some of the shenanigans that ensue) beginning of second track “Cosmic Rain,” and which, by the time it picks up its tempo, has spent three of its five minutes undercutting a momentum and sense of immediacy Mothership do so well otherwise to present.
And if that seems like nitpicking, yeah, it probably is. Take the minute nature of that critique as a sign of how otherwise solid Mothership‘s Mothership is, both in terms of the tightness of the performances of the Juetts and Smith and in the trio’s ready-to-roll grip on their aesthetic — all the more impressive when you consider this is their debut album. There remains room to grow in their sound, in terms of vocal arrangements and the overall dynamics there, but doubtless Mothership are undertaking the work of that growth on stage every night on their current tour — even if they are getting loaded in the process — and they’ll hopefully emerge even more of a force than they were when they hit the studio with Stump to put these songs to tape. It’s an easy bunch of songs to get excited about, and the potential Mothership show here is outshined only their obvious love of what they’re doing.
In the interview posted last summer with the band, the Juett brothers credited their father (who also plays drums on some of these songs) for instilling them with a love of classic heavy rock. That love is all over the self-titledMothership, and if they’re looking for something to build on for their next time out, that’s a better starting point than most.