Review Summary: it's crazy and it's alright
Prior to the actual release of mewithoutYou’s fourth musical endeavor, it’s all crazy! It’s all false! It’s all a dream! It’s alright!, I was at a loss as to what to make of the hype that I had heard buzzing around the internet about the change of their sound. The first thing I had heard was the fact that they wrote the entire record with acoustic guitars. This obviously brings a completely different dynamic to the songwriting and is blatantly obviously on the new record. Everything is softer and mellower than anything they had done before. One could argue that is was a large jump from their previous records but at the same time if you really look at their body of work, they have gotten softer progressively coming from the post-punk of A→B [Life] to the moody, albeit catchy Brother, Sister. But out of all the things I had heard coming into this record, I found out that they would be singing throughout the entirety of the record. Which for mewithoutYou, and maybe only mewithoutYou, that seemed like a strange idea. In case you haven’t heard of or know about mewithoutYou’s sound before, the one thing that holds them above most acts in their genre is really the vocal delivery. The poetry of Aaron Weiss is one that is arguably unmatched in the scene today, but not only that, his unique vocal delivery (instead of singing, he mostly hollers or does spoken word) is what makes mewithoutYou one of the most fresh and distinctive bands of their genre. The music isn’t half bad either; combining ambient guitar work, drumming that is unique unto itself, and some bass lines that are smoother than marble. All of this though, was about to change on May 19th.
The first thing that struck me about the record at first was the artwork. I myself am a vinyl collector and I’d say half the reason I do so is because I love the artwork. I think an albums artwork can express a different side of the record by making it more cohesive. And as I gazed at the brown piece of abstract art that is the cover I was struck by how well it fits the mood of the album. I think this is something mewithoutYou has always done well with their artwork. But as I looked inside and read the lyrics of this record (which with mwY is always something that is a journey unto itself), I was a little confused by what I saw. This time instead of finding the cries of a man drowning in self-doubt (Catch For Us The Foxes) or one that is expressive of an existential side of Christianity (Brother, Sister), but yet I found stories. This was certainly different than what I was expecting. I was expecting something that I could find that I would connect with on a deeper level and all I got was some crazy tale about a crow, a fox, and a cookie. As I listened more, all I seemed to hear was absurd parables that for some reason featured every piece of fruit, food, and animal imaginable (see “the Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie” and “goodbye I!”). I really was at a loss as to what to think upon first listening.
Musically, their was a lot of acoustic guitar, like I had heard about before, but also their was a ton of horns and other various brass instruments and shakers and such, that as a die-hard mewithoutYou fan, I didn’t know if this is really want I wanted from this record. Everything seemed so different. Not to mention the fact that Weiss traded in his hollering for singing, which he can sing but it was certainly a peculiar voice (see “Every Though a Though of You” and “Allah, Allah, Allah”).
So what was I to do? When sitting down to actually write this review, I was having a constant struggle as to whether to approach this from the bitter old fan who was going to play the “THEIR OLD STUFF WAS BETTER!” card or the fan who thinks that you can’t compare is to the old stuff and appreciate it for what it is. That dilemma is what plagues the fans of any band that changes their sound even in the slightest. And honestly, I hate both of those approaches. The “old school” fan is annoying because he can’t move forward, getting bitter over any amount of success and claiming that the stuff they loved in high school is the only good stuff (which with certain bands, I am 100% guilty of that). But the other people annoy me as well. They embrace the new stuff by forgetting was came before it. So with this record I did some research and realized that the changes that they made, extreme, as they may seem, aren’t as extreme as I first perceived.
MewithoutYou’s acoustic guitar influence was ever present on Brother, Sister. If you look at a song like “In A Sweater Poorly Knit”, you could tell where they were going with this next record. Also, the singing aspect has been in mewithoutYou since the start, even if it was small (see “The Ghost” from A→B [Life]. The story telling was also there on Brother, Sister in songs like the one I already mentioned and “Messes of Men”. And lastly, their mellower vibe that you find on it’s all crazy! can be found no further than the spider trilogy that they did on Brother, Sister.
So after looking into mewithoutYou’s past and realizing that though this album actually really isn’t much of a stretch, it was able to grow on me. And as I listened, I found the great one-liners and meaning within those parables (the most enjoyable I feel being “The Fox, The Crow, And The Cookie”). The music itself did take a little bit getting used to, and I found it slightly ironic that the album that mewithoutYou starts singing in is probably their least accessible.
It is hard to swallow this record upon the first few listens. Especially if you are as big of a fan of mewithoutYou as I am. And I feel like four albums in, you aren’t really making records to win over new fans or to impress anyone. You are strictly doing it for the love of music and self-expression. That seems to be mood on this record. MewithoutYou has always been unique and different from anything else, and with this record take it to another level. So really the only way I can think to describe this cd and accurately say how I feel about it, is just to say it’s all crazy! and it’s alright!