Ten records released over the course of a 28 year career isn’t an exceptional tally, but given their penchant for the gilded, sunset-tinted rock that’s been a hallmark of the San Francisco sound from the Summer of Love on, The Mother Hips have always hoisted their freak flag high. Chorus, their first album of all new material in four years, finds them still fully ablaze, the ragged melodies and determined stride still intact. Similar in stance to Crazy Horse, they create an unrepentant sound that’s still fully in fashion.
Indeed, The Mother Hips have rarely made music of the forlorn variety, but they’re not happy-go-lucky either. They’ve always appeared to have weightier concerns to rail on about, even while maintaining an ability and determination to ride them out. This time however, longtime leader Tim Bluhm may have other matters on his mind. The break-up of his marriage to singer Nicki Bluhm—a subject that clearly dominated her recent release, the descriptively titled To Rise You Gotta Fall—provides some glancing references here, in opening track “Clean Me Up” (“You deserve more and I’ll do my best to make it right”) and the telling solo acoustic intro to “It’ll Be Gone” (“I wish I could have made a love song and every word I sang would make you cry”) in particular. Perhaps it’s his way of making amends and expressing remorse, even though he likely realizes it’s way too little and way too late. Nevertheless, the shimmering “January,” a reflective bit of ambiance and nostalgia, still finds him taking a longing look back.
Of course, his ex made it clear that he was the cause of the discord and his cheating ways were involved. Reconciliation is a decided nonstarter. Perhaps then, Bluhm is merely fixating on the new love of his life. The deliriously seductive “Meet Me on the Shore” is an entreaty offering evidence he’s content, although there is some mitigation. (“Nothing lasts forever…I’ll be back again”)
Regardless, the trimmed down trio—Bluhm (vocals and guitars), longtime stalwart Greg Loiacono (vocals and guitars) and John Hofer (drums), augmented by other enlistees—blaze their way forward through a persistent series of tellingly titled scorchers: “High Note Hitters,” “It’s Alright,” “I Went Down Hard,” and “Didn’t Pay the Bill” being particularly prominent. Remorse and resolve make strange bedfellows, but Chorus is just vocal enough to ensure the sentiments stay intact and true.