After premiering a few singles from emerging Philly four-piece Mumblr, we are consistently struck by their maturity, lyrical poignance, and control. Most arresting about upcoming debut album, Full of Snakes, is its ability to build an anxious interrior that will linger long after the record’s done playing. Drummer Scott Stitzer explains that he used the phrase “full of snakes” to describe how he felt after a night of heavy drinking. Still, the connotations of the phrase are as limitless as the range of sounds that Mumblr has managed to curate here. The debut is self-conscious and writhing with feelings, everything from self-assuredness to something like self-immolation.
Full of Snakes is altogether an exploration of fear. There are ways of feeling it and ways of coping with it, and Mumblr tries just about all of them. Songwriter Nick Morrison’s lyrics express the familiar oscillation between recklessness and fearful inhibition that people in the weird margin between adolescence and adulthood experience—some of Morrison’s songs are angry and verging on disaffected, while others retreat into a space of consuming anxiety. On “Sober”, which emulates the desperation of being in love with someone, there’s the gut-wrenching declaration, “I’m freaking out.” There’s the metallic paranoia of “White Devil”, in which Morrison howls, “Fuck, there’s a guy with a gun on the back of the bus.” Midway through “Greyhound Station”, the anxiety escalates until it’s just short of unutterable, palpable only in Morrison’s wordless guttural wail. The vocals are honest and intimate, with the potential to make us cringe. All of these songs are permeated by a deep, inescapable sense of discomfort.
Which never translates to a lack of comfort on the part of the band. Morrison, Stitzer, guitarist Ian Amidon, and bassist Sean Reilly all exercise total control over their instruments. The guitar arrangement is incredibly versatile, often jumping from just a few clean power chords or riffs into a mess of distortion and back. Accompanied by the precision of the Stitzer’s crashing drums and Morrison’s dynamic voice, which he reins into a whisper just as easily as he lets it loose in wails and shouts, the effect is chilling. The arrangements are restrained, and every explosion fizzles out at just the right moment.
For all its exploration, Full of Snakes never loses accessibility or veers too far in any one direction. This is a cohesive work with sounds that coincide strikingly with the themes it addresses—feeling dejected, attachment to a city that doesn’t need you, being young and full of bad feelings. It’s enough to leave anyone reeling for days.
Full of Snakes is out September 16, and you can preorder it from Fleeting Youth Records.
Full of Snakes tour dates:
September 19: Philadelphia, PA – album release show at Golden Tea House
03 New Brunswick, NJ – Candy Barrel
04 Brooklyn, NY – Shea Stadium
05 Long Island, NY – Dong Island
06 Brooklyn, NY – Bohemian Grove
07 Bethlehem, PA – The Funhouse
09 Penn State, PA – Dad’s House
10 Athens, OH – ACRN Radio
15 Chicago, IL – Quenchers
19 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s
23 Tulsa, OK – Soundpony
24 Fayetteville, AR – Backspace
25 Conway, AR – Blue House
28 Charlotte, NC – Tommy’s Pub
29 Baltimore, MD – Club K
31 Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts