On ‘Crooks’, Drew Thompson sings, “I need more stimulation”.
This the plight of the university student. Despite being subjected to an endless stream of club nights/society bar crawls/house parties/birthday parties/flat warmings/protests/guest lectures/bake sales by those who know how dire the alternative will be (studying?), many educated young adults end up feeling under-stimulated anyway.
The eventual outcome of this delusion is a reduction of the self to a series of clichés – the only actions the body has enough energy left to perform. Drew Thompson, the vocalist and only constant member of Single Mothers, addresses this ‘Collusion of Personality’ in many cynical, hard-partying and hilarious anecdotes on Single Mother’s debut album Negative Qualities. Thompson is obnoxious, poignant, disillusioned with adulthood, and loud. All of these… negative qualities would make him the perfect candidate for a member of the opposite sex searching beyond the lads and Hitler Youth haircuts, right? Apparently not, as Thompson seems to suffer from the same sexual frustration problems as the characters he mocks. The lyrics to ‘Patricide’ and ‘Marbles’ would be borderline misogynistic if they weren’t dripping with self-deprecating irony.
Thompson’s presence somewhat polarises the band, though. The lyrics and vocals are too voracious to be ignored, and they often threaten to drown out the rest of the band. A great blend of hardcore punk and the new-wave emo of Gnarwolves and La Dispute bleeds through the group’s melodic, explosive progressions. The catchy hooks have an anxious malaise, that and mad tempo juxtaposition also draws comparison to Touché Amoré, whose album Is Survived By was met with critical acclaim last year (the band has also released an EP by Single Mothers on their own label). All this bombast is engaging in the beginning of the album, and also over a few choice tracks on the second half, but somewhere in the listening of Negative Qualities the band seems to melt into a permanent rhythm section, one that doesn’t hold its creative weight particularly against Thompson’s outbursts of Bukowskian prose. The songs where all four members capitalise on their abilities are the best on the album. ‘Ketamine’ is well-paced, brilliant songwriting. A surprise comes as well, in the final track ‘Money’, which ditches the album’s stumbling drunkenness for 90s swagger.