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Mother Goose - Autumn Masochism

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Artist: Mother Goose

Album: Autumn Masochism

Label: Verdura

Review date: Jul. 30, 2004

The trio Mother Goose occupies an isolated corner of the Finnish music scene. They are neither a part of the surging psychedelic folk set of Avarus and Kemialliset Ystävät, nor do they fit comfortably into any rock circles. On three previous albums and a score of singles on vinyl compilations, both in Finland and abroad, the decade-old trio has created an edgy, compactly muscular pop. On their previous album, Junior Magic (Seriously Groovy), they came off as a garage band with a few avant-garde gestures up their sleeves; on their latest the pop song is merely a vehicle, a loose structure they expand, deconstruct and generally abuse for 60 minutes.

Some of the lighter ironic elements of Junior Magic still exist, like on the quirky short pieces “Skating,” “My Car,” and “Shingaling.” Ditties with hooks, all well and good, but next to the darker, more expansive sounds found elsewhere, the pieces sound silly and out of place. When they accentuate Roisko’s charging bass and Karhu’s tight microbursts of percussion, like on the ragged Crazy Horse-like romp “Maigret,” or the lumbering “Finnish Prayer,” they hint at a more primal force lurking below the songs’ surfaces.

That force bursts out on “Optonica” and “Affection.” On the former, a single snarling bass line holds up Laaksonen’s decorative piano chords and guitar, while a layer of rustling out-of-sync percussion cuts through the mix. “Affection” follows in the footsteps of Sonic Youth. A simple insistent bass line underpins the slacker verse and melody, moving unswervingly forward until erupting in a spree of cymbal washes, fuzz bass and mangled guitar chords.

With the bleak sprawl of the title track, Mother Goose’s conception of song form comes to full fruition. The piece stretches out for nearly 13 minutes, held together by one loping bass line. The rest is shifting poly-rhythmic drums, ominous ringing piano clusters, and stray guitar phrases. The lyrics, delivered in a nasal drawl by Laaksonen, are fragmented and syntactically ambiguous. The whole piece comes to an ambient standstill midway through, and then just as easily picks up steam again. The song passes through total deconstruction, and emerges with a menacing force.

Mother Goose toys with these two minds in a more schizophrenic manner on “Päivi.” On one hand, it is the album’s most conventional song, verse-chorus-verse, replete with a sing-a-long chorus of “It takes time / it takes time / but I don’t mind.” The bridge builds toward the impending squall, power chords growing more distorted, and volume inching upwards.

The album's apparent cynicism and stark atmosphere get heavy at times, making Autumn Masochism the musical equivalent of hangover, when the alcohol-fueled revelry of the previous night becomes a dull headache, a parched throat and a vow never to drink like that again. But you always do, just like you'd return to this album, searching for the hope at its pop heart, buried under its weary words and busted song structures.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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