Tuesday, May 26, 2009

review: mewithoutyou--"It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright"

For Philly's mewithoutyou, this is their Deja Entendu or OK Computer moment. Not that this record is necessarily on those same levels, but it does the same for mewithoutyou that those records did for Brand New and Radiohead. It puts them in a different conversation beyond their screamo/emo/post-punk categorizations. Unfortunately, that conversation has not been had yet. A quick survey of the online world, and not too many "indie rock" sites associated their name with mewithoutyou (here's a notable exception). Which is unfortunate. It's not a case of mewithoutyou's past Christian affiliations--surely the 50 states guy and his "kitty with breathing problems" label along with the tree-singing guy (who produced the album) have solved some of those prejudices. It's a different landscape than ten years ago. The greater problem is still the large disparity between bands that decide to associate themselves with a youth-oriented, teen appealing demographic when they are in fact, teens or young adults rather than to the grad, post-grad, post-post grad crowd. No doubt that Aaron Weiss was a screamer and a yeller and quickly got grouped in with the screamo/post-rock crowds and tours. The only difficulty is that anyone who actually listened to mewithoutyou or attended a show knows that something was off, that what they were doing appealed and subverted the average crowd goer, but still maintained enough melody and power to get lost in the mosh pit and then everyone forgot what great poetics Weiss was spilling out. The right ears just were not listening.

Hints of nature and the slower tempo have always been present ("Orange Spider, Orange Leaf" anyone?) but what emerges here is more of their spiritual diversity with the band chanting and embracing some Sufi phrases, references to M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen along with Biblical fables. The opener "Every Thought a Thought of You" has this carousel melody accentuated by an organ, but it's still apparent Aaron has an excellent sense for melodic choruses and lines that stake their place in memories. All this wraps up with some Arabic spoken word (I think) then touts off the nice horn solo. The theme of nature is set early, then expounded with the mythic "The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie" which is their best pop song but also their most obvious departure from the past. There is no physically-crazy Aaron, only lyrically-crazy Aaron. Now his odd chant-rapping has merged into even odder crinkle-speak, like a piece of foil being slowly unwrapped. That is a definite drawback, as one comment I've heard compares him to Kermit the Frog. Any fans looking for their former thrash-and-burn tempo will not find it on this album. Though "Timothy Hay" might lend itself to subtle fist-pumping and fill the same need, but in a different way. "Cattail Down" gives license for a kick-and-snap dancehall groove that the morose indie kids never knew they had as they sing "You're everyone else, you're everyone else, you're everyone else" repeatedly.

I've met Aaron twice, and had one good long conversation with him for an article and I casually mentioned to him a few years ago that they fit in with the experimental folk crowd--like a Devendra Banhart. At the time, I meant thematically, but with this album mewithoutyou squeezes right in there with similar contemporaries like Anathallo or even Jose Gonzalez. Though this album will be jarring to recent fans, long-time followers have aged enough to understand the changes made here, and should have seen them coming all along.

Here's a good interview at Busted Halo for those interested in Aaron Weiss's spiritual upbringing.


  1. You are dead on with this review, they put on a great show in Philly for the record release party. Check out some photos from the show @


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