Boy, was I ready to take this one down. When initially sent a new batch of albums to review, I decided to listen to this one first, mainly because the band name and album title had me convinced that the music would be insufferable. I mean, the Moon and Her Mother? This was bound to be a patchouli-soaked collection of embarrassingly earnest folk songs about eschewing the trappings of modern life and returning to a more natural state sung by a self-righteous, unwashed and unshaved bohemian man, ashamed of any trace of testosterone in his body. To add to the confusion, there are songs on this album called “The Red Dove” and “In The Space Between Atoms.” Tell me that doesn’t sound like the work of a time-warped flower child.
So I put this album on in front of a group of friends (of whom it should be said, are considerably less bitter and mean-spirited than I), and was all ready to commence with “Snark Fest 2010”. You can imagine my disappointment when I quickly realized that The Moon and Her Mother is a surprisingly decent power-pop album, far more indebted to Carl Newman than Joan Baez. There we sat, listening to the album without a snide remark to make, occasionally muttering, “This is pretty good.”
Subsequent research tells me that “The Moon and Her Mother” is one of Aesop’s Fables. The story of that fable is fairly simple: The moon asks her mother for a coat. The mother replies that she cannot provide the moon with a coat, because the moon consistently changes from full to half to crescent and back and no coat would fit her. Presumably, the lesson is that it’s impossible to provide consistent comfort to anyone since people must constantly adapt and change. Aaron Wallace, seemingly the only member of The Moon and Her Mother, may have picked this name to suggest that he believes his music and behavior to be somewhat unpredictable and ever-changing.
However, while there is any number of legitimate compliments to send Wallace’s way, none of them have anything to do with eclecticism, unless switching from up-tempo to down-tempo qualifies as eclectic. The Moon and Her Mother is lively and inspired, graced with a number of winning and original melodies, but it’d be a stretch to say that anything strays too far from the power pop tag. The aforementioned “The Red Dove” is a punchy shot of sunshine, belied by self-deprecating lyrics in a way that would make the Apples in Stereo proud. Follower “In Vacuum Tubes” has a similar sprightly bounce, and Wallace has the good taste to intriguingly weird the proceedings up with some warped synthesizers burbling underneath.
The Moon and Her Mother gets in a little but of trouble when Wallace switches to forlorn piano balladry. “Strong City” is occasionally livened up with some interesting sonic choices, particularly the way the synths snake around the main melody from deep in the mix, but it all feels a bit too familiar. Same goes for “Televangelists”. This sort of thing is not easy to pull off in a post-Coldplay world without seeming like a sap, so Wallace shouldn’t get down on himself for not being able to doing anything all that new with the style throughout the album. At least “The Last Catastrophe” is a partial success in this category, spruced up as it is with dramatic horns and drum rolls.
Mostly, Wallace thrives when he keeps things catchy and energetic. The Moon and Her Mother is not the sort of album that you won’t be able to live without, but it’s an engaging and assured debut. Perhaps the ostentatious band name is meant to lower the listener’s expectations, only to surprise them with a genuinely enjoyably album. Kind of clever, no?