Album Review: MOURN – Self Worth

[Captured Tracks; 2020]

Let’s get this fact out of the way right now: the four members of Mourn were just teenagers when they released their first album in 2014, and their youth has far too often been the only thing people talk about when they talk about them. Instead, let’s focus instead on just how reliable the Barcelona punks are; their consistent release schedule always churns out at least a few gems. The follow to their self-titled debut, 2016’s Ha, Ha, He., showcased a darker sound, and 2018’s Sorpresa Familia was a sprightly jump in fidelity. The newest, Self Worth, is again both of those things. Adding a heavy dose of righteous anger to the narratives, these cuts are the lean and mean adrenaline shots we’ve come to expect, or rather, need, from this band.

The ingredients are much the same, spearheaded by Jazz Rodríguez Bueno and Carla Pérez Vas’ singing – often howling with every inch of their vocal chords. But special mention goes to new member Víctor Pelusa, whose drums are punchy and almost never quit. A standout is “It’s A Frog’s World”, where the band make you think it’ll be their only percussion-less entry on the album, but more than halfway in, the pretty harmonies are accosted once again by a roaring performance from the drummer.

This is one of several reminders that Mourn are a band focused on energy, but it’s important to note that it comes with a very polished sound. Classic New York punks might look the other way, but fans of the fidelity of bands like Metz have a lot to love here. Even the songs with more soothing guitar riffs put out a heck of a lot of decibels. “The Tree” is a new tonal direction for the band, with reverb that almost makes this a hangout song and lyrics that emphasize metaphor over specificity. Closer “The Family’s Broke” is a sibling track with an almost shoegaze warmth on top, and it’s a fine lyrical departure as well, describing the dismantling of the Sorpresa Familia (“surprise family”) that was built up on their previous LP.

Still, the first dose we got from Self Worth remains its finest track; lead single “Call You Back” – first released back in April – is effortlessly good. Clearly borrowing once again from bands like Throwing Muses and Sleater-Kinney, each vocal part is practically screamed, whether it’s a solo melody or a sublime harmonization. “I’d rather die before letting you know how I feel” is the resounding lyric, evoking catharsis and desperation in almost equal measure. It’s just a catchy tune, right up to the end where the drummer strikes some off-kilter snare hits and the vocals are reduced to wordless chants at this point, as if they’re telling the listener “we’ve said all we need to say.”

Indignation is queen of Self Worth’s narrative. Rodríguez Bueno and Pérez Vas often sing about the release from toxic relationships. “They think they do things for me / But they’re doing them to me,” they scream on “Men”, but, this is more than a breakup album. Indeed, Mourn introduced the themes of the album by saying: “You try so hard to do life your own way, but you’re super stressed out and you’re scared, and every now and then you think “Is it worth it?” In the end, I think it’s worth it.” Yes, stress does permeate the attitude of the record, but it’s always expressed in a healthy, satisfying way.

Like many records in this scrappy rock genre, there’s not too much to say before you start unnecessarily over analysing it. In short: it’s the best sounding Mourn record by a longshot, while maintaining the youthful energy we expect and need from the Barcelona band. Self Worth may not be the most well-rounded punk album of 2020, but it still manages to be hyper-focused in sound, expression, and energy. If there are angry demons that need to be exorcised from a clouded mind, Mourn can help.