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The Mother Hips | Green Hills of Earth (Future Farmer)
Their previous four albums having succesfully eluded me, Green Hills of Earth is the kind of record to inspire a time-consuming, patience-draining trawl through every back-street record store of questionable repute in the hope of plucking a bargain bin treasure from amid the major-label misfires and indie-hopefuls. Previously tarred with the well-worn brush of Americana and alternative country, the Mother Hips latest makes Wilco's Summerteeth seem like a tentative first step such is its all encompassing embrace of all that is good in the warm climes of pop. Played with an assurance and command rarely found in the hook-heavy abundance of Beatles/Badfinger/Byrds/Beach Boys inspired outfits, whose cup doth runneth over as we enter the new millenium, The Mother Hips sit among the proud few (Sloan, Jason Falkner, and the sadly now defunct Citizens' Utilities) who breathe new life into a tired formula by adding 'taboo' colourisations to the mix, and doing justice to the song without the threat of rejection from the pop purist mentality. As Falkner integrates British new wave and Sloan openly welcome both Seventies sentimentality and a punk/metal edginess, The Mother Hips add bluesy guitar swagger and psychedelic experimentation to a solid foundation of very classy songs. On Protein Sky, the first in a trio of top-notch ballads, an Elvis Costello/Jeff Tweedy vocal glides over an acoustic's strum and piano chords, the pure Beach Boys falsetto of Channel Island Girl set against a insistent backbeat before hitting its 4/4 stride. Then Sarah Bellum casts her dream-inducing spell before the heady sitar intro of Such A Thing brings us back to Earth, the twin vocals of Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono equally adept negotiating the up or the down of the green hills. Lyrically, the Hips favour the obtuse and fanciful making the occasional stab at the relationship song ("real-life touching makes me nervous / I'll touch you in my mind instead") all the more meaningful. Emotional Gold betrays their country past, synthesised strings aside and Del Mar Station almost hits Eagles territory but it's the attention to detail and the constant inventive flourishes alongside the sterling performances and production that make Green Hills of Earth something very special.
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001