In preparation for this review, I watched the documentary DVD that came in addition to The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path‘s three CDs. Though the nature of a package like this should be enough to show how much thought and effort went into the making of this release, watching the band talk about it during the process and around the time of its completion presents it in a whole new light, even years later. Even more, it shows the stress that resulted from the creation of a project this large, with no portion more stressful than the third disc, The Path. Going through a number of different iterations over more than a year of being turned down by Drive-Thru Records, this portion of the record is what makes the package truly unique. While The Mechanic is a straight-up rock record and The Mother is more laid back, The Path tells the album’s story through a number of therapy sessions and songs. While it’s not quite the sort of record one might put on repeat, it has a certain quality about it that makes it stand out as a true piece of art and makes me return to it the way the other two quite haven’t.
On the inside of the packaging of The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path, there’s a simple request that The Path be heard through headphones, and with good reason- this is a very personal sort of record. From the opening atmospheric introduction that focuses on defining the words “pressure,” “doubt,” “failure,” and quickly turns to a bleak description of the main character’s outlook on his own life, it’s clear that this portion of the album could never properly be heard through a boombox or car stereo. It’s like a secret between few people, and the tragedy of the story should never leak out. “We Grew Up the Same” introduces the therapy session and combines it with song, blending the two in a manner that’s not unlike how a musical might present the story. Beginning by telling of the narrator’s father, Matt, and how he runs away from his parents to the freedom of living with his girlfriend, “Runaway (Part 1)” has a stinging quality throughout the lyrics, which come from the dialogue of a fight the night his father left. The track sets the stage for similar songs throughout, all presenting past dialogue while the therapy dialogue comes in a spoken form with ambient music in the background.
Just as Matt escapes to his new life and becomes a successful lawyer, his wife becomes pregnant with a son, who is passed off to her mother to allow the couple to live their lives while they are young. The music in this section is bright and fun, despite the weight of the decision that finds their son, Dean, growing up away from his real parents. A shorter, acoustic-based version of “Decoration” finds new beauty and adds new meaning to an already great song. As Dean gets older, his parents never come take him home, opting instead to send checks and make occasional visits as his “aunt and uncle,” never telling him they’re actually his mother and father. However, Dean figures it out on his own, and the weight of that knowledge builds up inside of him as his grandparents’ health declines to death, with the song “Never Coming Back” showing some of the best songwriting on the record. It’s then that his parents decide it’s time to bring their son home. A confrontation ensues, but Dean ultimately lives with them until he’s able to leave when he turns 18. He’s happy for a small period of time, but the circumstances of his childhood had such an effect on his personality that it’s difficult for him to acclimate to his new life.
As Dean gets a little older, he meets a girl and falls in love, which helps to make things easier. However, Matt doesn’t approve, telling Dean to stop wasting his time with her and to prepare for college. Matt tells him about his own past mistake: Dean. They fight in a way similar to what was heard earlier on the album, and “Runaway (Part 2)” finds family history repeating itself as a son leaves his father to live with his girlfriend in new freedom. Although the lyrics are changed, the intentions in the song are the same and it’s stirring to hear the line “Dad, I’m leaving tonight” repeated again. While Dean’s new life doesn’t come quite as easily as his father’s had, history strikes once again as he finds that they would be having a baby, which brings the story to the current time of the therapy sessions. While the therapist had been quiet for much of the album, he returns with commentary on the cyclical nature of the story in closing track “A Bigger Meaning.” It’s a heavy sort of ending, with the final portion finding the therapist’s voice changing to Dean’s, revealing the album to be a sort of internal dialogue within his mind, even more private than the therapy session could’ve first been perceived.
If you enjoy stories, this is one that demands your attention at least once. While the musical elements can seem a bit forced at times, the dialogue comes across naturally and the story itself is interesting. Songs like “Never Coming Back” and the alternate version of “Decoration” are bright spots, as are many of the ambient portions that appear behind the spoken words. The tragedy found in the repetition of mistakes by father and son comes across well in the two versions of “Runaway,” and the overall nature of the story is simply heavy. The story is not an essential element to enjoying the complete version of The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path, but it helps fill out one’s understanding of the other two discs and it’s clear why it was included. I wouldn’t recommend listening to the third disc every time, but it is a great piece of art worthy of the time spent perfecting it. Listen with headphones.