Friday, December 20th, 2019

Chelsea Wolfe – The Mother Road

Frank gives us a folky singer-songwriter from California with touches of doom and gothic rock.


Alfred Soto: Gathering intensity and pathos, “The Mother Road” aims for an end-to-all-things approach and succeeds. “Women know what it is to endure,” she rasps, as if to remind us that there is so much left to endure.

Ian Mathers: For a song that repeats “guess I needed something to shake me up,” it feels a bit like that thing never actually appears (although the more stirring ending feels like we’re just on the precipice of it). It’s not often that I feel like a four-minute single should have been longer, but this one really feels like it needs a little longer to percolate and then erupt.

Oliver Maier: Wolfe’s discography is lacking in notable stinkers, but she suffers from being so good at what she does that it can all get a little indistinct. “The Mother Road” pushes her remarkable voice to centre-stage and trades guitar fuzz for an orchestral climax, but melodically and structurally it still comes off as a little workmanlike. The fangs feel like stage props, I miss the thrill of the real thing.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Some songs demand repeated listens because of how immediately compelling they are — you have to extract every detail, soak them in. “The Mother Road” is the opposite — a song I listened to 4 times before I got anything of interest. But even a bonkers simile about Chernobyl is not enough to lift this out of mediocre acoustic goth.

Edward Okulicz: Wolfe creates a nice atmosphere, and the folk-goth arrangement is delightful in its bleakness, but her lyrics here are pure doggerel.

Kylo Nocom: A magnificent demonstration of tension and climax, reserved solely for the left channel.

Will Adams: The rumble that appears in the beginning is meant to foreshadow… something. Couldn’t tell you, really, since the lyrics feel at once too obscure and too on-the-nose (“like a spider in Chernobyl”…?) to make an impact, leaving the music to do all the heavy lifting as far as creating drama. Some of my favorite songs are ones that use the slow-build template, but it’s strange how “The Mother Road” falls this flat when something like Jesca Hoop’s “The Lost Sky” achieves the desired effect with so much less.

Isabel Cole: The way it builds its brooding sense of sprawl is hardly novel — at some point amidst the muted strumming and percussive pounding and occasional wailing guitar one starts inevitably picturing tumbleweeds and clouds of dust — but it’s executed effectively enough that it feels like something real. And I like Wolfe’s voice: husky and strong but with a warble that adds texture. I don’t recommend googling the lyrics unless you’re a 15-year-old reading Sandman for the first time, as the repeated “guess I needed someone to break me” that stands out evokes enough of an emotional story that if anything it feels watered down by verses about goddess flesh and spiders at Chernobyl.

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