Setting out to create the “modern day Screamadelica” is no mean feat. Given it’s cult following, quality and genre defining uniqueness, Swim Deep certainly have their work cut out for them if this is really their aim. Having said that, their transformation from sweet dreams to intense hallucinations has been surprisingly slick. There is so little of 2013’s “Where the Heaven Are We” on display here you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an entirely new band. Watery, sun bleached pop songs have been submerged in 90s acid and have somehow been galvanized as a result.
The first single released from “Mothers”, “One Great Song and I Could Change the World”, generally deviates in tone from the rest of the album, adopting a more gothic undertone and a main riff pilfered straight from the mind of Kevin Parker. The slightly out of place early 90s Madchester style section of the song in which Williams disinterestedly mutters the lyrics is low point for the album, as is this song admittedly. However this genre is well serviced on “To My Brother”, as retro psychedelic grooves mesh seamlessly with the gentle melody and beat that Some Friendly era Charlatans would be proud of.
The main unaltered features are Austin Williams ethereal vocals, which are at their absolute best when allowed space to breathe, free of alteration or over dubbing, such as on “Namaste”, or the verses of the New Order-esque “Grand Affection”. The upbeat tempos of both of these tracks make both of them stand outs on the album, even if the music video for the former somewhat diminishes its own legitimacy by comparing itself to a game show theme song. It’s genuinely distracting, as shallow as that may sound.
The obnoxious vintage stylization of Williams voice on “Green Conduit” serve only to leave it utterly isolated in terms of tone and effect. Both it and “Heavenly Moment” are so lacklustre that I personally would have removed them from the album entirely. However the thudding bass tight melody of “Is There Anybody Out There”, following straight on from “Namaste”, get the album going again before it plunges head first into an experimental passage halfway through “Forever Spaceman” that is clearly as jarringly out of place and incomprehensible to Swim Deep as it is to the listener.
“Imagination” seems to be Swim Deeps attempt at recreating the blissful high of “Come Together”, which they make a good attempt at. “Laniakea” features some refreshing acoustic guitar which grants it a level of laid back euphoria.
The album reaches it’s absolute peak while hurtling through “Fueiho Boogie”, a song that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 90s rave. It’s the kind of intense fun that the album could have benefitted massively from recreating on other tracks. But unfortunately it simply doesn’t manage to, with too many songs being downtempo snoozers or derivative and unimaginative, leaving the whole project feeling more like a nostalgic novelty than the revival sparking phenomenon it could’ve been.
So, in summary, is Mothers the modern day Screamdelica they so hoped for? No. Clearly not. It has barely a fraction of the original experimentalism, energy or danceability. It does however have several pretty great singles that I would recommend you listen to.