Ever since their 2014 self-titled album, Catalunya’s Mourn have re-written the indie punk rulebook. A genre in jeopardy of becoming too formulaic, modern punk becomes refreshingly less oafish and condensed whenever Mourn are involved, and new album ‘Sorpresa Familia’, following up 2016’s ‘Ha, Ha, He, proves just that.
It’s worth going back to press your ears against Mourn’s previous work, because they seem to be one of those entities that manages to progress in a subtle, nuanced manner. Unlike post-punk revivalists of the past, Mourn have decided to keep revisiting their influences in a focussed-yet-slightly loose way with each release, adding more knife-edge guitar lines, crunchier production, and ambush-esque vocal performances along the way.
The vocals of Carla Perez and Jazz Rodriguez continue to sound possessed, like somebody standing on a murky hillside, shouting towards to the moon. Alongside Mourn’s rhythm section, there’s an instantly-clicking sense of unity throughout ‘Sorpresa Familia’, where it seems as though each band member is playing loosely, as if this is jazz improv, but everyone knows what each member is going to do next. The sense of unity is fitting, as ‘Sorpresa Familia’ translates to ‘family surprise’.
The words “I will never let you forget what you said those days you still manipulate today” are screamed on ‘Fun at the Geysers’, a song full of grainy confrontation. While confrontation does seem to be the name of the game, the most interesting lyrical performances on ‘Sorpresa Familia’ are those with a little more imagination, see the opening line of ‘Skeleton’ – “bite your fingers until you see your bones become a skeleton”, and the incredibly vivid ‘Candle Man’ – “no expression on his face / no arms, no feet / he warms the entire place / but does not bleed”.
‘Candle Man’ is a very alluring song generally, with its slinky-yet-skeletal intro making for some of the best guitar work on the entire album, reminiscent of classic albums that redefined what it means to be a guitar band, see Television’s ‘Marquee Moon’.
Other key guitar performances include ‘Doing It Right’, and the bewitchingly fuzzy ‘Epilogue’, featuring a cataclysm of buzzing, scorching, six-string rocket launchers. Mourn’s axes are important to them, just as important as their words and the voices they one-two punch them with.
Mourn still refuse to say buenas noches to the grittiness and post-punk reverence that brought them this far, and doing so while touching up the subtleties of their sound, makes ‘Sorpresa Familia’ a treat.
‘Sorpresa Familia’ is out now via Captured Tracks