The Mommyheads: Finest Specimens

“La crème de la crème” is a French phrase that translates to “the cream of the cream.” Though The Mommyheads might be American indie, they seem to understand the phrase well.

Adam Elk, singer and founder of The Mommyheads, unlike most vocalists, works through a range not of pitch but of personality. On “Help Me” and “Henry Miller,” the angst demonstrated seems angrier than that found on “Thought of You” and “Jaded,” a more blues-oriented piece.

Some tracks seem to show off a near Dr. Seuss-like whimsy, like “Monkey” and “Like a Brick.” On “Wedding Day,” a frustration any newly castrated husband will be familiar with is displayed. The penultimate piece, “Valentine’s Day,” sounds as if it was recorded after the boys had a bit too much to drink, but the unfiltered poetry is fun to sing along to.

The instrumentals are just as diverse. The bass can be upbeat and poppy on the track “Cactus Farm” and switch to a sensual riff that seems lifted off John Barry’s James Bond theme on “Fragrant Rota.” Guitars can go from wide open Jimmy Page riffs on “Bingham’s Hole” to far more pop-oriented sounds like on “Fast Enough For You.” The band also wasn’t afraid to use mandolins, marimbas and melodicas as less traditional means to get their point across. Some of the best showcases of these talents come when Elk steps away from the mike, and the song exits from the highway to explore a detour.

“I feel like we’re satisfied, but we won’t get far,” Elk explains in the ninth track, “Needmore, PA.” The song is one of the band’s most recent, but viewed from their starting point in 1987 in New York, couldn’t be farther from the truth. If this album demonstrates anything besides songwriting, instrumentals and unbridled creativity, it’s a hunger to improve. This dissatisfaction with stagnation has propelled the band to go farther than their peers and accumulate a dynamic series of truly “Finest Specimens.”

In A Word: Multifaceted