Review Summary: An anthem for the broken-hearted.
Mew’s latest release doesn’t seem like the type of album I would have ever deemed as a classic. Paint me a skeptic- the fairly unconventional artwork combined with the absurdly wordy album title gave me a less-than-stellar first impression of the band. Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise album is a great example of vaulting ambition, as well as Janelle Monáe’s latest album, which is split into suites where a badass android-girl inconspicuously explores the class structure of a robot world. Look- the point is, when an album is viewed as possibly pretentious, it can definitely dampen that experience for listeners. It’s hard to meet the standard when you’ve already boosted it to inhuman heights; this is where Mew played the biggest joke on us, because in all honesty, they pulled it off. They created an album titled “No More Stories Are Told Today, I'm Sorry They Washed Away // No More Stories, The World Is Grey, I'm Tired, Let's Wash Away”, and the first song has a secret track that one listens to by playing the song in reverse. And they pulled it off.
This was not an enjoyable listen the first time through. The second time through, perhaps “Silas the Magic Car” was a fun track, but still, not much. It seemed that this album just was too dense, yet persistence paid off. I felt as if by continuing to listen to this eccentric album, I would somehow solve the riddle of the album and FINALLY “get it”, and after maybe 6 listens, get it I did. It struck me like lightning, and the emotion is what has stayed with me until this very day.
The song title "Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy" sums up the message of the entire album quite well. This is an anthem for the broken-hearted, those having issues summoning enough strength to face the adversities in life alone. Never has music felt so integral, so connected to the struggles of this world. And how it achieves this is through emotion that seeps from every single note. The landscape of “New Terrain”, the victorious climax of “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds”, the entire song “Hawaii”- there are so many landmark moments on this album. Also, painfully catchy riffs have their place in the form of “Repeaterbeater” and “Introducing Palace Players”, but what makes these even more effective than they’ve been ever before is their positions alongside the dreamy atmosphere Mew create, even in the most raw rock tracks.
There are certainly still quirks to be had in the album, and these said quirks will be what catches the oncoming listeners off-guard. Mew still love to use odd rhythms and time signatures; this type of experimentation felt more out of place on their earlier albums, but the maturity and experience of the Danish group truly shines on No More Stories. The feat of writing complex music that actually portrays a wide scope of emotions is how this album truly shines, and it’s moments like Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy that are testament to this. (How is the most bizarre hand-clap syncopation in the history of all history so fitting?) However, perhaps the most vital part of the entire album is the bridge of “Vaccine”, a heartfelt part where Jonas Bjerre touches on the fright of losing a loved one.
“That week you spent in the hospital, I was so scared you’d disappear; did you know that?”
As rewarding as the swells of this album are, it’s worth noting that even the interludes are incredible. And The Glass Handed Kites suffered from mediocre-at-best transitions: “Fox Cub” was a directionless mess too long for its own good, and “Small Ambulance” was fun but rather unnecessary. Both of these problems have been addressed; Intermezzo 2 and Hawaii Dream bridge the varietal songs of No More Stories together very successfully, and they end up being as vital as any of the longer songs.
Every moment feels extensively prearranged, yet it comes so naturally and authentically. That is precisely why No More Stories… is such a rousing success- this three-piece band constructed an album that defies logic, and relies on that “unstable” element of humans, the heart. This idea is captured most acutely within the last line of the album:
“Lift your head; don’t forget. You are love.”