Review Summary: mewithoutYou’s latest replaces the rawness and humanity of their old albums with sing-a-long styles and stories about animals.
mewithoutYou is a rare case in the world of Christian bands, for instance: they don’t suck. Despite having consistently strong religious overtones to their music mwY has managed to find a solid listening base of people of many different faiths (or no faith at all). They did this primarily through the lyrics and vocals of front man Aaron Weiss. On their first 3 albums, Aaron sang, spoke and yelled lyrics which were honest and though they came from a very clearly Christian perspective, they were delivered in such a way that anyone could relate.
Enter the new album It’s all Crazy! It’s all false! It’s all a dream! It’s alright, one which fans were warned ahead of time would be softer than their previous efforts; a continuation of the progression which began on Brother, Sister with the increased use of acoustic guitar (like on the “Yellow Spider” songs). Aaron’s impassioned screams which were the hallmark of their previous albums is gone completely, and replaced with a softer, slightly narrator-ish voice which works well in the context of the songs.
This brings me to the problem with the album: the songs themselves. The change of sound in and of itself shouldn’t be a problem for most fans of the band, they were never the heaviest band and this new sound was clearly hinted at on their previous album. The problem with the songs is that they lack the emotional urgency of their previous efforts. While in songs such as “Tie Me Up! Untie Me!” Aaron would confess that “And now I haven't even thought about killing myself in almost five months.” Or in “Bullet to Binary” from A->B Life which has a “sequel” on this album: “and when you say you love him, taste me I'm like poison on your tongue” which can be contrasted with such cringe worthy lines as “For each time you disrespect your parents!” in “Bullet to Binary (Part 2)”.
Another problem with the album is the animal lyrics, while previous albums have been distinctly human in Aaron’s confessions of his weakness and struggles with faith, this album features many songs which center on talking animal characters and food imagery. Which isn’t “bad” in any objective sense, it’s just (pardon the pun) too sugary for my taste.
All of this isn’t to say this is a bad album, it has it’s redeeming moments: the immediately catchy album opener “Every Thought a Thought of You”, the animal imagery laden “The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie”, “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room”, and “Cattail Down” are all great songs worthy of being compared to the best in mwY’s catalog. It’s just that while this is a creative and ambitious album from a talented group of musicians, they suddenly seem like songs written for youth camp camp fires more than the confessions of the old mwY albums.