Review Summary: Clever words on pages turn to fragments, circles, points, and lines/and they cover them like carpets with graceful, meaningless, ornamental designs.
It is extremely rare for a band to grab me with a strong grip and refuse to let go. Bands like Circle Takes the Square
have, as has dredg
’s "El Cielo" and Jeff Buckley
’s "Grace". However, that was years ago. It’s been a while since a band has really stuck to me like those bands did. Sure, I’ve listened to and enjoyed plenty of music, but none of them really had enough to keep me interested for so long like the aforementioned bands did. However, recently, I found mewithoutYou
’s "Brother, Sister", and later "A→B: Life", and finally Catch For Us the Foxes
The first thing that jumps out about mewithoutYou is lead vocalist Aaron Weiss’s vocal style. Unfortunately this will turn off many mainstream rock listeners (which is most teenagers and young adults, a bulk of the people who would listen to this kind of music), but with a little patience, it is easy to appreciate Weiss’s delivery. He screams and yells and shouts (and sings, too)--all in the first track, Torches Together
(not so much the singing, but he does sing quite a bit on this album). He’s passionate and screams and yells in a song’s climax or chorus; he talks and shouts at appropriate times; and he even sings in a moment that calls for a more melodic delivery. The vocal performances by not only Weiss but also by the backing vocalists are also extremely effective. Apart from him, the backing vocalists, guitarist Michael Weiss and bassist Greg Jehanian, bring an extra feel into certain songs. The final verse of Paper Hanger
features Weiss and his backups singing the same lyrics in almost contrasting tones--Weiss in his passionate yelling and the others in a more laid back and relaxed vocal style--creates a tremendous moment; the backing vocals in January 1979
provide an effective and powerful chorus.
The album’s biggest strength, if Weiss’s vocals aren’t it, is its lyrics. Though the band’s members are Christian, that doesn’t make their lyrics any weaker; if anything, it makes them stronger. Weiss’s faith and desire to share it, in Four Word Letter
Oh, doubters, let's go down to the river to pray
“Oh, but I'm so small I can barely be seen
How can this great love be inside of me?”
Well, look at your eyes; they're small in size, but they see enormous things
He’s not preachy or repetitive about his faith; he sprinkles in “Lord” and “God” in some songs once in a while and makes that song more poetic and personal. Not all the strong lyrics revolve around Christianity, however. On My Exit, Unfair
, he paints a gloomy and depressing personal picture in the chorus:
Oh, the clouds, they brought a darkness, and a hard rain's gonna fall
And all my laughter ends in emptiness, and a hard rain's gonna fall
My every medicine causes more illness, and a hard rain's gonna fall
And until I let you go, I didn't know you were never mine, you were never mine at all
Not the entire band rides on Weiss’s lyrics and vocal delivery. Each member holds his own playing his instrument; Tie Me Up! Untie Me!
’s foundation is in the drumming and builds nicely from there; Disaster Tourism
builds on a droning guitar riff and also builds nicely from there; Leaf
have some nice bass licks. Throughout the album there is solid and creative drumming and good guitar and bass riffs. However, with Weiss’s dominating and passionate performance in every single song, everything else seems to take a backseat and not much else really matters besides him.
The album’s songs ride on different strengths. A song like Four Word Letter has its lyrics as its strongest point; a song like January 1979 is dominated vocally; a song like Tie Me Up! Untie Me! has its foundations in the drumming and is built from there; Carousels features spoken verses and emotional, towering singing in the chorus; songs like Seven Sisters, The Soviet, and My Exit, Unfair combine all these things, and create an incredible atmosphere as a result, to make the best songs on the album. Each song has that moment when everything comes perfectly together. I can list each one but that would be pointless since putting it in words is nothing like hearing it. Maybe the entire climax is the moment in The Soviet when the band incorporates either a cello or violin and incredible effects while Weiss moans “So turn your ears, you musicians, to silence, ‘cause they only come out when it’s quiet/Oh, wake up, sleepers, and rise from the dead/or the fur that they shed is gonna lay on your bed in a delicate orange, a cinnamon red”; maybe it’s the entire song; maybe it’s the entire heart of the album (from Seven Sisters to My Exit, Unfair); I’m not sure. This album’s a grower, for sure; I first thought this was not as good as Brother, Sister
or even their raw, harder A→B: Life
. However, having listened to it carefully, I realize this is probably their best album. Brother, Sister is lighter and A→B: Life is rawer; Catch For Us the Foxes is perfect.