An EP about a toxic polyamorous relationship in Dawson City, Yukon — despite the Mad Libs-esque sound of that description, that’s precisely what Montreal’s James Brown (Uppers) is dealing with on Mouth. In a town of 1,500 people, it’s hard to imagine such a situation going unnoticed; the most frustrating aspect of small-town living is that everyone knows your business.
Though Brown never specifically mentions romantic relationships (or Dawson City) at all during the EP, knowing the context helps put his lyrics into perspective. Brown’s weirdo folk style — strummed guitar and low-key synth effects — helps highlight the despair and decay he’s singing about. With no context, his songs could just as easily describe settings in Jeff Van Der Meer’s Annihilation.
Opener “Bad Back” is the only song where Brown addresses someone directly, at one point saying, “You got a bounty on your big head/And it suits you well.” He continually calls the person “dismissive” while he admits to his own bad back. There’s a lot of story missing from this song, and that’s why it’s so hypnotic.
After that, Mouth descends into the dirt. “Finder’s Keepers” and “Without Leaking” are simply old clips from some depraved late-night-television dimension, and on “Parapet” Brown literally compares himself to a worm. He defaults to a dunghill separated by an ugly parapet, and he seems to have nowhere else to go. “Mouth” is even more disturbing; Brown uses vivid language to describe a no-doubt decrepit panic room and he provides far, far too much detail about a man chewing on something and then soiling himself.
Instrumental “Tyler’s Gloss” ends the EP on an ambiguous note. Perhaps this is to indicate a completely broken psyche, pushed to the limit by the one-two punch of bad romance that everyone in town knows about. Love may not be a battlefield after all; it might just be a dunghill when it doesn’t work out.