While there’s no misunderstanding why The Mommyheads chose the title Age of Isolation for their second album in two years. It’s also no surprise the band still sounds as creatively charismatic as we’ve come to expect from this experienced NYC four-piece. The band led by the hooking and idiosyncratic vocals of Adam Elk, maintains an alt-rock flair that contains brushes of Grandaddy, Flaming Lips, and XTC rolled up its own intelligent modern hue of musical colors.
Age of Isolation flirts with conceptual themes and while the album is not a concept album in the traditional sense, each song flows boldly leads into the next, satisfying full record purists and the band’s creative inklings simultaneously. 30 plus years into their formation the band has made many great records despite a lengthy hiatus, Age of Isolation is their strongest to date. And of course, you can never say they sound like their heroes as they’ve been doing this just as long as anybody- now is the time The Mommyheads get their well-earned due.
“The absence of any pressure to be a traditional functioning rock band, really frees us up creatively and stylistically,” said Elk earlier this year about the band’s DIY ethos.
The Mommyheads songwriting chops remain unparalleled as in the first song with its stick in your head anthem roaring: “it’s a brave new world/where everyone’s a winner/your always free to tune out and eat your tv dinner.” Mommyheads avoid lyrical cliches and triumph with the album’s loose theme of our society of becoming preoccupied with being safe/secure that we’re forgetting how to connect.
Elk’s warm vocal tone acts as the ideal narrator through the song cycle providing fist-pumping highs and melancholy plateaus. On “Last Silver Dollar” there is a bonafide alt-rocker guitar gusto, while “Don’t Ignore Air” acts as an instrumental interlude with tight bass and drums play, The title track is another thinking man’s alt-rocker with challenging instrumental patterns that prove the four-piece can play anything atop the conquering chorus of “a serotonin imitation/welcome to the Age of Isolation.”
“Out of the Cave” kicks off with a proggy Dark Side of The Moon experimental intro before leading into what might be Age of Isolation’s song as Elk sings passionately of coming out re-entering the physical realm. But yes, it is The Mommyhead’s ability to make each song musically challenging yet chorally inviting that is the key. Imagine if the most alienating prog bands actually wrote sing-alongs? The Mommyhead’s fill this demanding niche.
As the band shifts tempo and temperature throughout the ten songs, they jounce over to the chill overtones of “Am I Too Comfortable” a tune about living a simpler life amidst the chaos of the modern era. And soon to follow, the rockers land into new-wave territories with the pulsating “Shift in the Astral Plane.”
It’s rare when ten tracks matter so much on a single album. The Mommyheads have created a pandemic stunner that like most of Mommyheads’ overlooked material, will hopefully get its commercial due. Age of Isolation will serve as a musical timestamp: an accompaniment of survival and prevailing during the most messed up of times.
Been listening to this record all weekend. Conceptually, rhythmically and melodically complex. A perfect pandemic album! Elk’s masterpiece. How can these guys not be more famous?
If they were as well-known as Grandaddy, Flaming Lips or XTC, they’d still be under-rated. A truly singular band. And Adam is a Joni Mitchell-level writer. Played on bill together in Madison in ~1990 and have been blown away ever since. Still have the cassette I traded with them that night. Prized possession.