Review Summary: The dark mood that has hung over all their previous albums has been lifted.
“I’ve got a walnut-brownie-brain and molasses in my veins, crushed graham cracker crust, my powdered sugar funnel cake cocaine.” That statement conjures up some weird images in your mind. At its face value it just doesn’t seem to make much sense, but Aaron Weiss has a whole slew of lines just like this to fill up mewithoutYou’s fourth release, It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All a Dream, It’s Alright. This band has always been a few steps off the beaten trail, and maybe just plain weird. Things do not change much with this album. If you’re not careful listening to this album you might just think that it’s a collection of odd folksy Christian Campfire songs, with beetle colonies, banana boats, talking vegetables and a crazy baker. But there is a little more to it than that.
It’s All Crazy… showcases the bands biggest jump in sound between albums. For those of you familiar with this band you’ll probably first notice Aaron’s vocal style has changed. He just sings now. Yep, the shouting that had become his trademark is now few and far in between. If you’re not familiar with his vocal delivery think The Moon and Antarctica era Modest Mouse, and then multiply it by at least ten. It all works out though. As much as the shouting/singing was loved I never find myself missing it. It just wouldn’t work in context with the music. One thing that does work, and has been huge in all of their albums is the lyrics. Using his religion for inspiration you’ll find a lot of Christian themes. “A Stick, A Carrot & String” follows the life of Christ through the view of a few farm animals.”The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room” the third track follows an interchange between those two, and “Timothy Hay” ends with Aaron repeating, “what a beautiful God there must be.” In fact, being signed to Tooth and Nail Records has gotten them a lot more popularity out of the Christian Rock scene than anywhere else.
Aaron and his brother Michael, the guitarist of the band, weren’t raised strictly Christian. Their Mother raised them in a Sufi-Muslim home and they are of Jewish decent, and this also finds some airtime in the music. There are a few tracks that feature Aaron singing in Arabic, which has happened in their previous albums as well, and the last song of the album is titled “Allah, Allah, Allah.”
The dark mood that has hung over all their previous albums has been lifted. Most of the songs you’ll find here are quite happy and uplifting. The distorted guitars found in previous albums, have been replaced for a more acoustic sound. On their last album Brother, Sister, mewithoutYou started experimenting with more instruments. They included a harp and Aaron learned how to play an accordion, and that continues in this album. The harp still makes an appearance and so does the accordion, but you’ll also find the flute, the tuba, the trumpet and the violin added to the group. It almost seems like a different band than when they started out. Over the course of almost a decade they’ve moved from post-punk to quirky indie folk, reminiscent of the music of Neutral Milk Hotel.
The confusion and self doubt that had been a common theme in the lyrics is gone. Aaron seems like he got most of his inspiration from nature, and maybe this is what has got everyone thinking about the campfire songs. To be perfectly honest a few of these songs would make some decent campfire tunes. Another complaint is that some of the songs can try your patience with their repetitiveness. Cattail Down ends with the phrase “you’re everyone else” repeated for about an entire minute. There are quite a few tracks with bouts of repetition in them. “Timothy Hay”, “Goodbye I”, and “Allah, Allah, Allah,” may irritate some listeners.
They’ve changed into a story telling band, not unlike The Decemberists. The stories bring even more power and depth to the lyrics. “The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate” follows a beetle colony on their search for truth and could arguably be their best song ever. Hushed vocals and a soft acoustic guitar start the song, “The Beetle King summoned his men, and from the top of the Rhododendron stem: Calling all volunteers who can carry back here, the Great Mystery's been lit once again. One Beetle emerged from the crowd in a fashionable abdomen shroud, said: I'm a Professor, you see, that's no mystery to me... I'll be back soon, successful and proud.” The song continues to build into a fully orchestrated masterpiece, as the king eventually has to go out on his own. “Bullet to Binary (Pt. Two)” recreates people’s drama through personified vegetables. Here Aaron shows us that not all of his intensity is gone “Lettuce grows, lettuce grows in neatly sectioned beds and rows, but one day asked the Gardener to be moved to where the Eggplant goes. The reason being, I must confess, I adore her shining, purple dress! As the Eggplant listened in, she wasn't offended but she wasn't impressed.” Give him credit for making veggies sound good.
mewithoutYou changes up quite a bit and it’s all crazy. One thing that remains constant is that they put all that they have into their music. Rick Mazzotta and Greg Jehanian are an ever present force in the rhythm section. On the opening track you can’t help but let Greg take you away with his smooth bass lines, and Rick always surprises me on the drums. For playing on such a simple kit, he’s quite creative and fits in perfectly with the group. While these songs aren’t as intense as what previous fans are used too, they still have the same amount of effort put into them. You might think since the songs aren’t as harsh and have cleaner vocals and more melody that this album might be easier to get into than their previous works. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case. These guys are still plain weird. So, if your mind is open and you’re looking for something unique, give this album a listen. The best way to do that might be to grab a chair by the fire and sing along. Accept it for what it is: a fun album with songs that are guaranteed to make your day a bit brighter.