Mewithoutyou - It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's All Right!
I've been mostly absent around the music community for quite some time now, somewhat exhausted from constantly writing reviews for CMJ and also a bit unmotivated from recent albums. However, one album from a band that never ceases to impress (but somehow eludes mainstream or mainstream indie attention) beckons me to write again: mewithoutYou's It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's All Right!. Amongst fans, this album created a bitter divide: some accepted the band's constantly changing sound, while others yearned for the reemergence of the band's grungier beginnings. Regardless of one's preferences, though, a fan of the band -- and of music in general -- should easily appreciate the unique brilliance of this album, standing apart from most of today's experimental music.
It's All Crazy! Is the band's softest, most avant-garde album to date. Eschewing the scream/shout vocals of lead singer Aaron Weiss, the band focuses on blending grandiose melodies with Weiss' unorthodox vocals, which works with (somewhat surprising) success. Not unlike Jeff Magnum's ability to captivate an audience through his emotive singing and wailing, Weiss shifts his vocals from singing ("every thought a Thought of You") to narrative/dialogue ("goodbye, I!") with limited shouts in between. Weiss still sounds like he is reading from a hymn book, though on Crazy he seems more removed from his prose (or at least less agitated), emphasizing the songs' layered and arrayed instrumentation rather than his schizophrenic vocals.
Personally, the most impressive aspect of mewithoutYou's work has always been Weiss' lyrics, and, if there's any constant in the band's music, Weiss' sleight of hand again shines, molding Biblical themes and Sufi folklore into profoundly metaphorical narratives. The concept of a narrative manifests throughout the album, especially on the album's first single, "the Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie," where Weiss narrates a quarrel between an egotistical crow and a fox with an apparent sweet-tooth, singing lines like, "They admire me, one and all / Must be the passion in my caw / My slender bill known throughout the escadrille / My fierce commanding claw!" Ostensibly, Weiss seems out of his mind-and there may be some truth to that claim, especially if you see the song's video -- but within his crazy dialogue is a coherent parable discouraging arrogance and vanity, ending with a chorus imploring for human selflessness: "When letting all attachments go is the only prayer we know / May it be so, may it be so."
Like most experimental albums, not everything gels so nicely, and at times, you will find yourself looking for that punch found on the band's earlier albums. However, mewithoutYou save their best work towards the end, as "the King Beetle on a Coconut Estate" may be the best song they have ever produced both musically and lyrically -- and I want to venture that it is the best song I've heard all year. Classical strings, harps, and horns supplement their regular instrumentals, as mewithoutYou slowly build up towards a climactic crescendo on their 6-plus-minute epic, which discusses the mystery of heaven, the virtue in self-sacrifice, and the power of God through an allegory of a beetle community. There is so much depth and beauty to Weiss' lyrics that it is almost impossible to explain concisely, but what is most powerful is the way the strings compliment the climactic nervousness of the song before its booming crescendo, as Weiss sings, "[God] sends the black carriage the day death shows its face / Thinning our numbers with kindness and grace / And just as a flower and its fragrance are one/ So must each of you and your Father become." Here the lyrics are just as compelling as the music, which has always been mewithoutYou's niche, but now they have succeeded using a dramatically different approach. And for that reason alone, I would argue, this album is an absolute essential.
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on 2009-08-18 hstisgod Said:
Wow Kev, haven't seen you go off like that in a while...good to see you found some inspiration, but grateful cause this kicks so much melody and passion. It may be too early to rate after one stream of the album, but screw it! Great Rec! thanks...
on 2009-08-17 dscanland Said:
Damn, you've got me excited about an album too. Mewithoutyou has been on my list to check out but never have as of yet. I'm going to seek out It's All Crazy and report back. Thanks kev, welcome back!