Mom Jeans – ‘Sweet Tooth’

By Tom Walsh

Hailing from Berkley, California it’s pretty natural for a band to be inspired by all the greats that have come from this part of the Bay Area. Nearby to where pop punk four-piece Mom Jeans formed is the famous 924 Gilman Street, where a veritable who’s who of 1990s punk shaped the music landscape for a generation to come.

Bands like Green Day, AFI, Rancid and The Offspring all cut their teeth in this famous venue, paving the way for hundreds of bands in the years to come. As these bands know all too well, at some point in your career, you need to contemplate evolving your sound. It’s something that Mom Jeans tackle on their third record ‘Sweet Tooth’.

Gone is the indie-tinged, garage band vibe and stylised song titles that featured prominently on 2018’s ‘Puppy Love’, and in its place comes a much more straight-up pop punk sound. Working with producer Brett Romnes, known for his output with The Front Bottoms, Mom Jeans have polished all the rougher edges of their earlier work to create something that sounds just like everyone else.

Alongside their love for their hometown heroes, they also list Fountains of Wayne, Blink-182, Third Blind Eye and Oasis (!) among their inspirations, and claim ‘Sweet Tooth’ has moments akin to Weezer’s ‘Blue Album’ and Fall Out Boy’s seminal ‘From Under the Cork Tree’. However, in reality, ‘Sweet Tooth’ feels like a record that could’ve been written by a myriad of clone pop punk bands within the canon at the moment.

While it isn’t necessarily a bad album, it’s more that it feels uninspired. Where Mom Jeans had this good alternative, garage rock vibe about them, they’ve seemingly traded it for tracks that Blink-182 had gotten tired of in 2004. Lead single ‘What’s Up’ is your classic pop-punk track with vocalist Eric Butler lamenting his unhappiness, complete with an almost Brandon Urie-style singing style.

It’s followed by one of the most infuriating, sickly sweet tracks on the record in ‘Hippo In The Water’. It’s your stereotypical song you would typically find in the mediocre areas of this genre – fairly routine lyrics of unrequited love, gang shouts and, an impromptu horn section. While it is quite a bad song, it is catchy so maybe that was the point all along.

The rest of ‘Sweet Tooth’ feels very much like the paint by numbers style that has plagued similar bands to Mom Jeans. There’s the acoustic ode ‘Graduating Life’, the silly one ‘Crybaby (On The Phone)’, the 2000s pop punk knock-off ‘Sugar Rush’ and then there’s the one’s where you think “this is what the album should’ve sounded like”.

They come in the form of ‘Anime Theme Song’ and ‘Ten Minutes’, the latter showing a bit more depth than the superficial tracks that have gone before them. It also makes you wonder why Mom Jeans wanted to abandon their niche and interesting sound to just fit into a subsection which sounds like everybody else?

Mom Jeans proclaimed that on ‘Sweet Tooth’ the goal was to create “ear candy” but unfortunately it’s just the kind of stomach ache you get from eating the same sweets over and over again.

TOM WALSH

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