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Mother Mother’s Grief Chapter: Handling Human Affliction with Hope

An experienced indie rock band with diehard followers and a growing fanbase, Mother Mother boasts an exciting career. Formed in 2005 in Vancouver, the band is still thriving today. In the early 2000’s, Mother Mother formed their identity through albums that addressed somber, existential themes often through brazen lyrics. In later albums, Mother Mother produced more danceable and rhythmic music, while retaining their catchy and gritty tunes. With the February 2024 release of their ninth studio album Grief Chapter, Mother Mother has shown that their music isn’t just for dancing, though, and their lyrics and musicality combine to reveal a deeper meaning about the human condition.

Mother Mother’s Grief Chapter comes with a message concerning our human affliction and what we can do in the face of life’s challenges. At first listen, one may notice constant allusions to death in the album, but it is not simply a work of despair. In songs like “Explode!” and “Grief Chapter,” Mother Mother acknowledges the reality of death, for ourselves and for our loved ones, and copes with it. Besides literal death, some songs also grapple with the threat of figurative death, referenced in the lyrics “Yes I die/ Everytime I/ Normalize.” Mother Mother challenges the idea that we must conform to bleak social structures in their hits “Normalize” and “The Matrix.” Whether figurative or literal, Grief Chapter faces mortality and grief head-on, but refuses to succumb to the overwhelming pressures of this hard reality.

The opening song of the album, “Nobody Escapes,” kicks things off with a surprisingly upbeat, saccharine tune, which contrasts the pessimistic lyrics. This type of juxtaposition is typical of Mother Mother, as is the song’s reference to mental illness. In “Nobody Escapes,” lead singer Ryan Guldemond addresses his struggles with anorexia, singing that, “they won’t go easy on you/ just ‘cause you’re skinny.” Guldemond’s vocals range from cheeky verses to a scratchy, rough delivery that conveys his feeling of ugliness. The second track, “To My Heart,” similarly addresses the challenges of self-criticism while also advocating for the importance of self-improvement. Guldemond told Apple Music that “‘going back to my heart’ means I’m going to make the effort to transcend the fiction of my toxic mind.” The lyrics are full of tortured imagery and regret, but the chorus expresses an effort to overcome that inner torment. 

Photo Credit: Mother Mother

The album offers more dismal songs that pull on your emotions, where that glimmer of hope is harder to find. “Days” reminds us that even amidst the promise of progress, there are still moments when one’s mental health can relapse. Lyrics like “I wonder which one’s going to take me down” despair that these moments are unstoppable. Yet at the very end of the song, hope returns when Guldemond asserts that “I never, ever let ‘em take me down.” Following “Days” is the heart-wrenching search for meaning in “Forever.” Singers Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin’s graceful vocals elevate the emotional journey of a character who wants to find an afterlife but realizes it may not exist. The conflict in this track is unresolved, ending with the repetition of “what do I do?” The particular emotional rawness of these songs highlights that despite efforts to get better, everyone still shares the universal experience of pain.

While some songs on Grief Chapter are heart-rending, others are energizing and even motivational. In “Explode!,” Mother Mother acknowledges the difficulties of being alive. The narrator anticipates the promise of letting go after death, which the chorus emphasizes with a cathartic explosion of sound, using acceptance of the future to release stress about the present. “The Matrix” also examines sources of stress and depression in modern society, like “living in the basement” and “the nine-five suicide,” but Mother Mother rejects this unfulfilling lifestyle with proper rock energy. If you take advantage of the time you have, “find yourself a mantra” (or personal meaning to life), and escape the “matrix,” the truth of human mortality becomes less threatening.

Grief Chapter ends fittingly with a track of the same name that was inspired by a friend’s grief for his late father. Although previous songs inspire us to transcend the fear of mortality, the final track reinstates that losing loved ones is still inevitable. To echo the title of the album’s first track, “nobody escapes” death and mourning. “Grief Chapter” does not shy away from the hopelessness and pain that comes with a close, personal loss. Despite the somberness of this final note, the album itself is not hopeless. Grief Chapter has taught listeners to also acknowledge the good in life–simple moments of beauty, like the sounds of children playing in “Goddamn Staying Power.” Seeing the good as well as the bad allows one to cope with the kind of grief presented in this album.

Mother Mother maintains their identity as a skilled, emotionally powerful, and sometimes irreverent band with their latest release. The quality of music remains high, especially with the vocalists’ continued power over expressing emotion. When creating music about depressing topics, it’s important to give the audience some flickers of optimism. Grief Chapter achieves this by combining hard truth and hope so that listeners can shed tears while also forging a better path forward.



Grace Stephenson is a sophomore in the College studying Linguistics with a minor in Biology.


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