Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Mother Hips Return from the Dead

Long ago, in a small liberal arts college far, far away, I listened to...pretty much the same stuff I listen to now. Many probably shared similar experiences of going to college and discovering record collections vastly different, larger, better-informed, more obscure (or all of the above) than your own. For me, it was encouraging to learn that Britpoppers Travis were NOT the best band of the moment, and that Weezer was just the tip of the iceberg of catchy, fuzzy-guitar centric rock. Anyone with me?

Anyhow, I was raised on the Rockist Canon, including all the big B's (Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys, Bob) but leaning particularly heavy on a few less celebrated (outside of Rockist circles) California groups like Love, Moby Grape, and the Buffalo Springfield. Which is probably what drew me to bands that mimicked early Wilco -- namely, the Mother Hips, who actually namedrop Jeff Tweedy and co. in their song "Smoke".

I had their album The Green Hills of Earth back then, and somewhere in the past six years I picked up Later Days too, but had pretty much (read: totally) forgotten about them as a living rock and roll entity. Then, out of left field (or Laurel Canyon, as it were), they released Kiss the Crystal Flake, a fine little comeback album that should have some shaggy, ageing rockers and those with tastes similar to shaggy, ageing rockers licking their chops. The Hips have always had a big time Neil Young jones -- you can actually download their cover version of Young's class Everybody Knows This is Nowhere LP on their website -- and they're not afraid to show it. "Not So Indepedent" steals its intro from "Cinnamon Girl", and the harmonies ring out like they did in the Springfield's glory days. "No-Name Darrell" is a Big Star homage too, while "Time We Had" reminds of the Connells' "college rock".

If this sounds like a combination of pretty much band I ever talk about, that's because it is. But I'm just fascinated that a band that released their first stuff in 1992 and stopped in 2001, a band that I've always viewed as sort of a glorified local/cover bar-band, would get it together enough to lay down a new album in 2007. Just a blast from the past that you never expected to hear from again, but then they unexpectedly re-emerge -- triumphantly -- in archetypal Rockist fashion, to put together one last slice of mid-tempo, countrified classic rock that will no doubt be just as forgotten as the rest of their stuff. Gotta admire that kind of resilience.

The Mother Hips - "Time We Had"
The Mother Hips - "Not So Independent"

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