The dark and claustrophobic underground confines of Manhattan’s Cake Shop are an apt place to watch Single Mothers. Because the four-piece from London, Ontario are a dark and dangerous proposition live.
After the hype that surrounded the release of their formidable self-titled EP in 2011, the Canadians’ debut album, Negative Qualities, is finally finished. Though its ten songs are recorded better than those on that EP, the visceral, emotional turmoil is still just as present – a bleak whirlwind of frontman Drew Thomson’s own internal apocalypse, and one which takes place in a fragmented and rotting, decaying society.
That storm is in full force tonight. Frayed, snapped and severed nerves flailing everywhere as the four-piece charge through their set with ferocious intent. While Thomson’s lyrics offer up that charred, collapsing vision of life – together with a nihilistic, hedonistic attitude wrapped up in self-neglect, self-disgust and self-abuse, not to mention a self-awareness of all those things – the other three members are the stitches, however wild and loose and unravelling, that keep the whole thing from falling apart.
Still, the band’s guts are all over the floor tonight. The lacerations begin with Blood Pressure and its volatile, violent, unapologetic statement of, well, just the way things are. “I’ve got more alcohol inside me than blood,” Thomson spits over a ragged, raucous blast of noise and jagged, jittery melody. From there, the wounds just keep oozing, the excess flowing. The new songs – the sub-minute noise attack of Womb, Half-Lit, Crooks, Overdose, Marbles, Patricide (“I need God about as much as she needs me” flows the spite of its chorus) – are as dark and savage as their titles mainly suggest, while the slow-motion menace of Feel Shame is just as powerful, despite its reduced tempo, that dangerous edge shimmering like the glint of new newly-sharpened knife.
Then, of course, are the four from that previous EP, each of which sends a surge of bodies towards the stage, Hell Is My Back Up Plan and Winter Coats especially filling up small the space with a rush of pure adrenalin and excitement from the bodies in the crowd. But that’s only because the album isn’t out yet. The band’s new songs, both live and on record, are just as potent, offering a severe jolt to the system that extends way beyond your usual punk band. It’s like getting crazy drunk and having the best time and then puking everywhere but not caring and just carrying on, never having a hangover because you’re reaching for the bottle again as soon as you wake up. Of course, that’s not a reality, but Single Mothers make it seem absolutely possible. Long may that last.