Photo Credit: Sophie Hur
Los Angeles-to-Brooklyn transplants Momma are the latest in a string of bands to embrace the sound of the early and mid-Nineties alternative rock and re-shape it for the 2020s. They’ve already forged a close alliance with Wet Leg, a UK band that has been deservedly hyped and is unmistakably similar in a few key respects. However, if it became absolutely necessary to try and narrow down the American group’s parentage, the musical DNA test might reveal Momma to be the spawn of Belly and the Smashing Pumpkins. Still, on their third album Household Name, Momma’s co-fronting singers Etta Friedman and Allegra Weingarten create both a sound and a musical personality that go well beyond their obvious and well-selected influences.
About half the tracks on Household Name had been released individually over the course of the past few months. Among those early arrivals was “Speeding 72”, an amazing, instantly memorable hook-filled fun burst of musical life that will surely be among the best rock (or any genre) songs of ’22. “Lucky” is probably the best use on the record of the ’90s soft-then-loud-then-back musical approach used most famously by Nirvana. “How’d I get so lucky?” Momma asks on the song (by this point, the approximate halfway mark on the album, anyone listening to it will be asking themselves the same question).
Mid-tempo “Medicine”, is another one of the album’s best tracks, featuring lyrics (“One kiss // And I’m hooked on your medicine”) that employ the same love-is-the-drug metaphor used in songs like, well, “Love is the Drug”, Roxy Music’s 1975 classic. A more specific theme that turns up on several tracks is life in a rock band, such as on the opening cut “Rip Off”, as well as the pop-grunge “Rockstar”, which takes us through some of the trails and tribulations of what many musicians go through on their way up (“We still need a drummer… // The barback is our singer // The last one quit the band”). Oh, and it’s also another one of the album’s best tracks.
“Brave” ironically, is perhaps the album’s safest cut, or at the very least the most radio-friendly. Starting out with an echo-y synth and a very brief spoken word (still just trendy enough), the catchy chorus turns it into another one of the album’s highlights. It could as easily be a Taylor Swift song, yet even the biggest ‘90s-bred cynic will find the song impossible to resist. Synths turn up unexpectedly throughout Household Name, such as on “Tall Home” which opens sounding a bit more like a Lorde track, complete with the quasi-rapping, but the track perfectly balances those elements with its loud guitar parts. No one, we imagine, will dislike the near-perfect “No Stage”, with its raw guitar arpeggio and power chords – the second half of the verse alone makes the song another winner.
Etta and Allegra’s voices are also perfectly placed, sounding as though there’s an underlying projection that they can’t believe they’re getting the chance to do what they’re doing, which makes it all the more relatable. Among the album’s few-and-far-between weak links are “Callin’ Me”, which simply lacks the distinction and focus of most of the other songs, while album closer “No Bite” comes off as a bit anticlimactic, but that may in part because the rest of the album gives it so much to live up to. However, all in all, this is the kind of album that is virtually impossible to play through without immediately going back to re-listen to at least one song. On Household Name, Friedman and Weingarten show us all why we should all listen to Momma.