Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Captured Tracks
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
One of the most natural and creative-sounding 2010s acts finding inspiration in punk and alt-rock icons like Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith, and PJ Harvey, Mourn have the ability to surprise, unlike so many of their contemporaries. Their self-titled debut is a loving homage to those formidable artists (there are also shades of Throwing Muses' wildness on "Misery Factory" and a hint of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"'s crashing riffs and drums on "Dark Issues"), but Mourn is far from rote imitation. While Jazz Rodríguez Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas sing and play with the intensity of their influences, their songs reflect that they (as well as drummer Antonio Postius and bassist Leia Rodríguez) were still in their teens when they recorded them.
While their classmates were busy listening to the regional mainstream of cumbia and ska or as MOURN put it, music that doesn’t make you think, the teenage Catalonian quartet were deep in Northern Spain’s musical underworld working on something entirely different. Maybe it’s this idea of a foreign underground scene so alien to most of us, or maybe it’s that these four teenagers ranging from as young as 15 to 18 already know more about music and history than most of our dad’s but there’s something about MOURN that gives birth to some of the most mature and authentic sounding stoic punk and brazen indie rock this side of the 70s. Three years ago MOURN frontwoman Jazz Rodríguez Bueno got dumped for being ‘too immature’ and it would appear she took offence.
Mourn have elicited a considerable amount of attention, partly because three of their Catalonian members are 18, and their drummer is 15, but also because the comparisons being drawn between the band and their influences — respected female rock icons like PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith and Kim Gordon — are accurate. There's youthful, unabashed energy on this straight-to-tape, two-day recording; the band's refusal to overthink has resulted in a pure and sincere sound. It's the haunting, mercilessly catchy nature of the slurring vocals on every track, from the opener "Brain of Candy" to the retro punk of "Jack," that elevate these loose, teetering songs and wedge them into your subconscious.
The cover of the debut album from Barcelona-based foursome Mourn bears an uncanny compositional resemblance to that of another debut album by another young, petulant quartet with an M, O, R, and N in their name. The band logo emblazoned in white all-caps, the grimly grayscale urban backdrop, the dark-haired subjects clad in leather jackets—Mourn’s reverence for the Ramones couldn’t be more obvious if they wore their t-shirts in their press photos. (Oh wait.
If you didn’t know the four members of Mourn were teenagers going into their self-titled debut album, there are telltales throughout the effort. The request on “Marshall” to “Shut up!” and “Step off!” burns with the fire of youth angst. Likewise, “Jack” turns from a simmer to a boil as the dual fronts of the band, Carla Pérez Vas and Jazz Rodríguez Bueno, exclaim, “You called me a baby, I just say ‘Fuck you.’” The response is clear-eyed and unapologetic, enough to make you fear for anyone to call these women “baby” again.
Never mind the sonic references to The Ramones or even Sleater-Kinney; the two Catalonians that started up MOURN (though now with the help of two other equally young compatriots) are nothing if not ambitious. They have their sights set on attaining, if not emulating, the level of artistry in song- and production-craft achieved by artists like PJ Harvey, when she triumphantly carried on the venerable torch of 80s indie (alternative?) rock. How else could they have recorded songs with the caliber of opener “Your Brain is Made of Candy” or “Dark Issues” within the span of only two days? And it doesn’t stop there: other songs like “Otitis” and “Marshall” sound like the work of determined elder statespeople of “rock & roll” working something out in the studio with some immensely respected producer or engineer.
Much attention is being paid to Spanish punk band Mourn and their smart self-titled debut, but some of that attention seems misplaced. With an average age of just over 17, the members of Mourn are just on the cusp of real-life experience, which makes their stellar debut all the more fascinating and impressive. At the same time, perhaps the focus on their young age is a little misguided given their genre of choice and its long history of powerful statements from angst-ridden youth.
The first album by this very young quartet from Barcelona is what folks used to mean by alternative rock: a genuinely contrary fury of jagged-granite guitars and severe pop discipline. Mourn's grip and immediacy in "Dark Issues," "Misery Factory" and "Marshall" (the chorus: "Shut up, Marshall!") are especially remarkable as singer-guitarists Jazz Rodríguez Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas were born in 1996, four years after the release of PJ Harvey's Dry, a clear inspiration. Bueno and Vas spice their grind with wicked teenage spite: A bonus track, the first song they wrote, is called "Boys Are Cunts." But armed with this sound, Mourn will get even more interesting as they tackle what happens after adolescence.
1996 through 1998, when I was 15-17 years old, I was in high school, like most teenagers, and worked part-time at a local hardware store. I’d go to our school’s sporting events or play video games with my 12-year old brother in my non-studying, non-work time. I never had a girlfriend until the end of my final year of high school and I spent the time up until that point writing, what I thought was, brainy and hip sounding absurdist love poetry, borne from my love of Bob Dylan and my propensity to crush constantly from one girl to the next without ever getting a date.
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