Single Mothers – Negative Qualities

The Hold Steady have never done the trick for me. They’re a near enough miss, however, that a comparison to those barroom bawlers isn’t enough to scare me off a new band. London, Ontario’s Single Mothers miss that mark in all the right ways. I love them.

Actually a more apt reference point for Negative Qualities is early Titus Andronicus, if shorn of its Jersey signifiers and Irish drinking shanties. Like Titus’ Patrick Stickels, lead Mother Drew Thomson is verbose, cranky and committed. Thomson’s quartet delivers balls-to-the-wall punk rock with ferocity reminiscent of Future of the Left or the Jesus Lizard.

Like the Hold Steady, Single Mothers’ lyrics take center stage. Both bands spin yarns of miscreants and lowlifes, typically placing them in barroom settings. But there are two critical differences – Thomson shouts his lyrics in punk rock fashion and places himself at the center of the action, implicating himself rather than dishing dirt from an ironic distance. “I’m so self-aware it’s crippling,” he declares on the standout “Marbles,” just one of a parade of memorable lines he spews across these 25 action-packed minutes. It’s too easy to simply quote his lyrics, but how about just one more; “Either make a change, or shut the fuck up about it already,” he scolds to close the even nastier “Blood Pressure.”

Not until finale “Money” does Thomson condescend to Craig Finn’s style of plainspoken vocal remove, but by then he’s built up enough goodwill (if that term can be applied to such a trash talker) to skate by. Negative Qualities delivers some of 2014’s best spleen venting. Meanwhile, maybe it’s time for me to give another listen to Almost Killed Me.

Single Mothers
Negative Qualities
[HXC Recordings]