Review Summary: Learn the words, sing along, and be happy. Seriously.
Of all the horrible things being said about the new mewithoutYou album It's all crazy! it's all false! it's all a dream! it's alright, the worst is that it is "uninspired." The word gets thrown around a lot by music critics and it often describes an album that the critic finds either too similar to other bands' music or too similar to the band's earlier albums. Since this album is neither, I take it that "uninspired" refers to the lack of energy (re: distortion, shouting) in the tracks. What people seem to have difficulty realizing is that while It's all crazy! does lack the aesthetic energy of their earlier albums, it has an underlying creative energy that feels stronger than ever. And this is mewithoutYou's most inspired album yet.
Granted, if you aren't a Christian, you might not like their inspiration. The album is intensely spiritual and the description of "Christian campfire songs" is actually pretty accurate, but that's not a bad thing. "the Angel of Death came to David's room" and "Allah, Allah, Allah" especially fit that specification. But there's a silver lining to every cloud; instead of seeing these songs as freaky cult tunes, look at them as joyful anthems. Just start singing along, because that's clearly what the band wants you to do. Opener "every thought a Thought of You" is an easy one, with a simple melody and an incredibly catchy interplay between guitar and bass. And if you can't help pining for hints of mewithoutYou's former albums, you can even sing along to "bullet to Binary (pt. two)," with its ending chants of "All the time, everyone, everywhere, everything" backed by slow-burning chords.
The songs are all fairly subdued except the aforementioned "bullet to Binary (pt. two)," which sees Aaron Weiss throwing in a bit of his former vocal aggression, but even that sounds more like a pleading prayer now than it ever did before when he yells "Let us die! Let us die!" There isn't much distortion like we heard in "O Porcupine," or heavy riffs like we heard in "Silencer," but it's led to a more inventive sound for mewithoutYou. Where a few songs on former albums would have a harp section or some interesting percussive effects, It's all crazy! has parts like that in nearly every song for extended periods of time. Instead of inhabiting the "colored spider" interludes on Brother, Sister, the accordion now plays a major part in songs like "Fig with a Bellyache" and "goodbye, I!" "the Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie" has tubas and violins, and "Cattail Down" has an excellent horn section in the middle of the song. Moments like that are found all throughout the album, and although this takes the spotlight off of Weiss' vocals, It's all crazy! feels like more of a well-rounded album with the instruments taking a much larger role.
The best track is "the King Beetle on a Coconut Estate," which begins as a quiet acoustic song with harp and violin flourishes and ends as a sweeping epic that combines all of the elements used throughout the song, horn and string sections all. And Weiss is at his best lyrically on this album, mastering symbolism and metaphor to convey doubt and faith and love. "Allah, Allah, Allah" is a jubilant, lighthearted, clap-your-hands-and-join-in song, and it could be heard around a campfire and it is not ashamed of it. mewithoutYou have embraced the things that made them unique and made an entire album out of them, and to call it uninspired is preposterous. From the mood-changing Arabic chanting in "every thought a Thought of You" to the exultant end of "the Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie" to Weiss' earnest vocals in "Timothy Hay," It's all crazy! is an album that truly shows mewithoutYou's genius. The only negative thing I can think of is that it isn't much of a grower; if you don't like it when you first hear it then you probably never will, but it's your loss.
Essentially, It's all crazy! it's all false! it's all a dream! it's alright. seems like the album that mewithoutYou have always wanted to make. Casual fans of their other albums would always say things like, "Oh mewithoutYou are so quirky!," but those quirks only made up a fraction of their music. This album basically sees those quirks taking over the songs and the result is a joyous, triumphant, inspired piece of work. Learn the words, sing along, and be happy. Seriously.