Album Review: The Mommyheads, “Genius Killer”

The older I get, the less genre labels matter to me. IAs a person who runs a music website that includes the word “prog” in the title, I find that particular genre label especially useless. While one can often find complex elements in progressive songs and music, the essential elements of any good prog rock song are, in the end, quite similar to the elements required for a good pop song, or jazz song, or reggae song, or really any song ever written in any genre. Are there memorable, interesting melodies? Are there any emotional, intellectual, or even spiritual elements that resonate? Does the music speak to you?

Enter Mommyheads, a band initially introduced to me as a ‘progressive pop’ group, a la XTC or Jellyfish. Over the last few years, I’ve realized that my mind and heart are more oriented to these types of groups, as I appreciate both concept and songcraft, and love the blend of simple, memorable melodies with deceptively complex arrangements. Mommyheads, who have been writing this sort of music for decades, have recently released Genius Killer, a collection of 10 smart, catchy, and diverse tunes that reveal themselves more and more with each listen.

A knack for Sgt. Pepper-esque orchestrations and harmonies is apparent from the very start of the album. Opener “Impulse Item” is a perfect example, as it preps the listener for the subtle brilliance and charm of the rest of the album. A good example of this dense orchestration style is the introduction of the harpsichord around minute 4- it’s not the lead item in the mix, but that flourish and finesse brings you back for subsequent listens.

“Idealist” is another understatedly brilliant track about how our artistic muses can help or harm us. Sublime harmonies are accompanied by kaleidoscopic guitars and a tom-heavy groove. The lovely music video, directed by Patrik Karlson and featuring performance artist Jenny Nilsson, is a perfect visual accompaniment of the song. Jenny is suspended throughout most of the video, either in an aerial hoop or a net, in an almost dream-like rendering of the conflict between the freedom we feel from artistic expression and the captivity we create by setting up expectations and seeking accolades from others.

Though the music itself is very charming and pleasant, there is always a creative and disarming element- something that will jump out and smack you in the face. Whether that’s the buoyant, funky groove of “Distill Your Love Into That Dying Light”, or the keyboard breakdown in “First Five Seconds” that would make Rick Wakeman proud, Genius Killer packs a lot into a little. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this record, and found a new thing I loved with every subsequent spin. For fans of smart pop, don’t miss The Mommyheads’ latest, Genius Killer.

The Mommyheads released Genius Killer on September 1, 2022. Check it out here.

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