There must be something in the marsh water. Home of the small-town super-festival Sappy Fest, musicians flock to and from Sackville, New Brunswick like a pack of mallards (Sackville Waterfowl Park). The likes of Shotgun Jimmie, Julie Doiron, Arcade Fire, and Chad VG breeze through town like the wind in the willows. For real, though, Sackville’s newest sweet little band, The Mouthbreathers, live up to the reputation the town has made for itself with feathery pop rock that soars like migrating geese (man oh man).
For real this time, The Mouthbreathers’ debut, Appetite for Deconstruction (suck it, Axl), serves up nine tracks of scrappy pop-punk that are ambiguous and familiar all at once. Recognizable elements are brought together in this release but I don’t want to liken this band to a list of predecessors — except Quaker Parents because it feels like they’re riding the same sonic waves. Proof: The Mouthbreathers are playing “An Installationship” put together by SappyFest 7 Songwriter in Residence Mark (Quaker Parents) Grundy this Friday in Sackville. Check it out if you are lucky enough to be nearby.
The Mouthbreathers have a style of vocal delivery that is singsong-y and laconic, with lots of progressions. It’s indie-pop-rock, after all. I mean, the Mouthbreathers are familiar but they should be. They give us Bazooka Joe punch lines, strings of witty word play, and cute references: “Why am I like a tin-man Morrissey? If I have a heart, then it must be very, very deep down” (“Bender,” double reference: Futurama). And in “P.Y.O.T.” too: “When I looked into your eyes, / I realized, you’re wearing contacts, / And I wanted to ask if you wear them to play contact sports.” Awe yeah. When you get to “Bundle Up,” you can really hear the swamp magic. But, here’s how The Mouthbreathers make their own way in the modern day: guitarist Lucy Niles’ tone of voice is as satisfying as a McCain Deep ‘N Delicious cake, not trying to be anything other than what it is. All of the songs have a vocal charm similar to Quaker Parents and Thee Oh Sees, but Niles definitely has an individual register. Plus, “Quicksand” is a rhyme-time with a pretty groovy bass intro, and “Hitch Your Horse,” which is maybe the most earnest song on the album, is a great closer to wrap up the 25-minute debut; it’s a little more contemplative and old-fashioned.
This is to say, there are surprises all over this album.
Towards the end of “P.Y.O.T,” we are treated to a surf-riff outro. In my mind, I’m cruising the Fundy tidal bore with Brian Wilson and Cold Warps, which would be a dream date. And then “Or Else” lays down a metal-punk solo. Every track has a feature that catches you off guard. The Mouthbreathers say that they want to write songs that “don’t make us fall asleep.” Nailed it. You will love this album. It’s been in my head for weeks and I bet they rule live. Appetite for Deconstruction is available for name your price on Bandcamp.
The Mouthbreathers play SappyFest 7 in August.
Top Tracks: “Birthdays” and “P.Y.O.T”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)