Single Mothers express a drive that is scant amongst other punk bands. It harkens back to the heyday of hardcore punk with incredible kinetics and mad ranting vocals. Moving at a million miles an hour and barely able to keep up the band perfectly captures the desperation of youth. This is what punk is all about.
From the first note to the last the self-titled EP from the London, Ontario band signed to Dine Alone Records is charged with incredible energy. It practically explodes from the starting gun into a lead position and you’re left trying to catch up. It’s a confidence that few bands can express musically, but one that hardcore punk has long sought. It’s a short EP, only four songs roughly totaling 14 minutes, but that short time subjects you to a visceral experience.
This mainly comes from the melding of Drew Thompson’s ragged almost belligerently masculine vocals and the matching instrumentation from the band. On songs like “Christian Girls” Thompson’s voice sears through the mix and immediately follows the breakneck speed of the music with a ranting vocal delivery akin to the height of Black Flag. Lyrics like “She asked if I loved her, I said ‘hardly’/I don’t even think I know what that means.” place the band firmly in the thematic mode of hardcore punk as the songs brim over with a sense of angry confusion. At the songs conclusion when Thompson screams with his flayed vocal chords the words, “Oh baby please/Come over here and talk to me,” the song approaches a climax that ricochets through the rest of the EP in a young cocktail of rage and confusion that swings at friendships, relationships, and people in general.
Fittingly these themes are captured with angular and rough guitar and bass tone from Micheal Peterson and Evan Redsky, and unrelenting drums courtesy of Matt Bouchard. The instruments can reach an incredible pace, but can also be nimbly employed to create grim and frosty atmosphere and texture in songs like “Hell (Is My Backup Plan). The sound is wonderfully raw. Heavily distorted tones are graced with a fleeting thickness that sends the sounds into an endlessly and blindly progressive all out sprint through a snowy street. When accompanied with the vocals the sound at times threatens to overload the listener with sheer raw noise, but the mix and band are also kept at the limits of a leash. The desperation is not entirely unintelligible but laid before us in its natural state like an open wound.
Something unique to this EP is the uniquely Canadian motifs that always underlies the songs. Frequently mentioning the snowy winters in songs, most obviously “Winter Coats” (Thought I was living but I’m dying in Ontario/And she should really be wearing her winter coat”) Adeptly, Single Mothers channels those feelings of desperation, anger, and youth through a prism of lower middle class life in Canada. Even the simple admission of the fact that the girl one loves like Arcade Fire becomes a sight of conflict, a rallying call for male camaraderie as if nothing else mattered or will. Songs sound like the internal thoughts of someone stuck in a too warm home in the height of a Canadian winter. You begin to dislike people for the smallest things.
This has the risk of becoming inaccessible but Single Mothers never falls on Canadiana or these references like a crutch. Instead, they are broken into easily communicable ideas. Everyone experiences feelings of alienation, and everyone comes within inches of their breaking point or feels the cold sting of loneliness at some point.
It is an incredibly effective EP. The essence of punk is taking the DIY ethic and individual feelings and communicating them so the experience is expressed externally and made cathartic. It’s part of the reason why group vocals are so common in punk. They link a group to the band, to the individual. The ability to express the internal turmoil of frustration and desperation externally through music is at the heart of Single Mothers. Capturing how it feels to be a young man is tough, but punk and Single Mothers capture how it feels. When they scream, “We’re not a band motherfucker we’re a gang/So, let’s hang” you believe it. Single Mothers are as visceral as they are emotionally open and they are well worth praise.
(Image courtesy of Dine Alone Records.)