Single Mothers - Single Mothers (Cover Artwork)

Single Mothers

Single Mothers (2012)

Secret Voice

I recently decided, on a whim, to revisit the Self Titled Single Mothers EP. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, so I threw it on in the car.

I felt a wave of nostalgia as the opening chords of “Christian Girls” rushed out.

I was first exposed to Single Mothers many moons ago, when they opened for Touche Amore and Pianos Become the Teeth in Toronto, Canada. SM’s set was mind-blowing. I probably downloaded their (then) self-released EP as soon as I got home. It was instantly in heavy rotation.

Single Mothers were relatively unknown at that point. I don’t think it had been announced that a vinyl release of Single Mothers would be the debut record on Touche Amore vocalist Jeremy Bolm’s Secret Voice label.

I surely didn’t know that. I had, in my mind, discovered the coolest new band, and I needed to tell my online friends at about it. So, I wrote a review.

Thank God for user submitted content!

I realized, jamming these old faves last week, that it’s been ten years since my review. I was a relative neophyte to punk music AND reviewing in late 2011

So, a new review is in order. Let’s see how my thoughts progressed, and show some love to a personal classic.

What do I think about this record now?

I still feel a lot of what captured me in 2012.

Single Mothers is basically a fuckin’ demo. Every instrument track on the recording is clipping, to the point where the mix sometimes devolves into indecipherable noise. The playing is sloppy and full of sour notes. You can sometimes hear where the guitarists punch in to re-record parts. Singer Drew Thompson occasionally stumbles awkwardly, like he’s feeling out how many syllables he can pack into a bar. I remember him saying he made up some of the lyrics on the spot, which is fully believable.

I said back then this record has a lot of punk rock attitude, and my appraisal stands. This is the perfect recording and performance for a punk band’s first official release. Volatile and rough, held together in spite of itself by top notch songwriting.

I don’t think I really knew what the fuck I was talking about with the sonic touchpoints on my first review. People in the comments said this record and in particular Thompson’s voice sounds like The Hold Steady. I still haven’t listened to that band, so who knows? I now hear a lot of punk’s garage roots. The riffs are upbeat and bluesy, not unlike the Stooges or The Damned. Except they’re played with the negative ferocity and sombre guitar tone of a late 2000’s Deathwish band. Is that what Single Mothers were going for? Who fucking knows? This could easily be a facsimile of something I’ve never heard. Still, you should like this if you enjoy when punk sloppily appropriates classic rock and roll.

I heavily related to the lyrics when this came out. Now it conjures a younger angst I can’t help but cringe at while still kinda totally relating to.

Thompson’s going for the type of Bukowski “sensitive playboy” thing I tried and failed to land in my 20’s. He’s spilling drinks all over Arcade Fire fans at a normie party (Arcade Fire fandom was endemic among normies in 2012). He’s crying out in bewilderment at how “all the girls around [him] wanna be so cold” mere bars after kicking one out of his bed for suggesting they get breakfast. He’s skipping town with his side-piece because his girlfriend wants a commitment he can’t offer.

I always assumed this lyrical performance was a half-caricature, but it’s not like that matters. It remains a super effective portrayal of post-teenaged toxicity – the burning desire to do what you want, on your terms exclusively.

A decade can fly by in real life. In punk time, it’s an eternity. Single Mothers have been a band (in some capacity) the whole time. I would love to know how they view this record. This release was a first step in a long list of milestones. It led to some pretty high-profile tours, getting picked up by Dine Alone Records, and ultimately, being a band for ten years. I wonder if they view this as a springboard to what they were able to achieve, or just part of the process in a career full of ups and downs.

My journalism “career” hit a high-water mark covering this record. My proudest achievement is seeing a quote from the Punknews review in Dine Alone’s press release announcing they had signed Single Mothers. I’ll also never forget interviewing the band, before the Secret Voice EP dropped, while getting wasted in their van outside a venue.

 My personal infatuation with Single Mothers, however, starts and ends here. I never got the same feeling from 2014’s Negative Qualities, which, objectively speaking, might be a better record. I guess that’s the power of expectations. This EP was a magic moment in my life and nothing could recapture it.

It’s been ten years, but the magic is still there.