Review Summary: The trap I set for you seems to have caught my leg instead.
These days, Christian bands in the mainstream have become a dime a dozen. There's Underoath, a black metal-cum-post hardcore-cum-metalcore band who's probably the most popular of the bunch (rightfully so); As Cities Burn, who took their root post hardcore sound and merged it with post rock and progressive influences on their latest album; Anberlin, who insist they aren't a Christian band but aren't really fooling anyone; and then there's bands like Zao (good) and Norma Jean (bad), whose unrelenting heaviness bring to mind the devil rather than God. There are, of course, a host of others who simply aren't as good as the aforementioned bands.
The Christian message in these bands' music isn't always obvious - praise and worship bands don't get airplay on MTV. Still, one needs only to merely take a quick glance at a few of their songs to see that, while they could certainly be interpreted and applied to things other than God, most of their lyrics contain rather positive messages about Christianity, or negative messages about non-Christians, usually hidden beneath diatribes about the downfall of American society and culture as it moves farther and farther towards a more liberal and progressive outlook countrywide. The point is, not many Christian bands have a message that non-Christians can take inspiration from; it would be a rare thing for a Wiccan lesbian to be able to look at the "struggles" of a modern day Christian and be inspired.
I digress. There's bands like that...and then there's mewithoutYou.
Starting out with a rather raw post hardcore sound, mewithoutYou released their first album A:B Life
in 2002. The album was rough, to say the least, but it was a good introduction to the band, especially to eccentric and quirky frontman Aaron Weiss, whose lyrics and passionate vocal performances have always been a rather large draw for fans of the band. mewithoutYou really hit their stride with Catch for Us the Foxes
, which refined the sound heard on their debut into something a bit easier to stomach, but with no less energy and passion. 2006's Brother, Sister
sees mewithoutYou in top form, as their indie influences were finally given room to shine through prominently.
Any fan of the band would have most likely been content with a similar musical effort to Catch for Us the Foxes
on Brother, Sister
, but mewithoutYou once again showed that they could morph their sound into something new and exciting with each album. In 2006, when most bands in mewithoutYou's niche were trying to become heavier and louder each time they released new music, they chose to go in the opposite direction. One-fourth of the songs on this album are minute-long acoustic interludes with an interweaving theme, utilizing instruments like an accordion (played by Weiss) and various percussion. "Messes of Men" has bells and "In a Sweater Poorly Knit" has a harp. Brother, Sister
is their most musically diverse record, but also their most grounded and tuneful. "O Porcupine" is mewithoutYou's greatest achievement in songwriting; the composition of the song is absolutely astounding and intensely clever. The song is fairly standard for the band until it reaches the one minute mark, where Weiss says "All creation groans...SHH!" and then, after a five second pause, whispers "Listen to it!" The band comes back in for another verse until the line "You have a decent ear for notes but you can't yet appreciate harmony," when the musicians play a dissonant section that offsets the lyrics in the most amazing way. The song's climax with guest background vocals from Jeremy Enigk is the best moment on the entire record. "O Porcupine" is the culmination of mewithoutYou's inventiveness and uniqueness.
Of course, there's also a great showing from the band's conventional instruments as well. Although this album has an undeniable lack of atmospheric material, especially compared to A:B Life
, guitarist Michael Weiss makes up for this with some of his strongest riffs yet in songs like "C-Minor" and "In a Market Dimly Lit," and impressive progressions in "A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains" and "Nice and Blue (Part 2)." Rickie Mazzotta is one of the most inventive drummers in the scene right now; he is constantly switching beats and tempos and if it weren't for Aaron, he would be the most entertaining member of the band. All in all, the musicians of mewithoutYou are amazingly talented at creating the perfect backing for Weiss' raving.
Which brings me to the best part of mewithoutYou: Aaron Weiss. I would say, with all the confidence in the world, that he is the best frontman in music right now, and one of the most artistic and expressive people I've ever seen. His vocals convey pain, sadness, ecstasy, and any other feeling you could think of. Weiss sings more than he did on earlier releases, and the album is all the better for it. His trademark yell is still there, but even that is more melodic than usual. Lyrically, the spiritual influences take the form of many Biblical references to characters such as Daniel and Job as they relate to modern day Christianity, and Weiss' own doubts in himself, which are still just as prominent as they were on the band's first two albums. "C-Minor" is perhaps Weiss' most touching and believable lyrical outing, as he talks about saving himself for marriage and the battle with his own manhood. It's one of those songs that's relatable both for Christians (who would be familiar with the struggle with their sexuality and libidos) and non-Christians (frustrated teenagers who can't get laid).
I'm still (ehh, technically) a virgin after 27 years,
Which never bothered me before;
What's maybe 50 more"
The harder the rain,
The lower the flowers in the garden bend
(This never ends)
I'd rather never talk again
Than to continue to pretend
That this never ends.
is honestly one of the most amazing records I've ever heard. The musical talent and unique approach alone make it worth a listen, but the passion and emotion evoked takes mewithoutYou's music to a level that not many bands are able to reach. Every song has amazing moments, whether it be Jeremy Enigk's guest vocals on "O Porcupine" or the gorgeous harp outro of "In a Sweater Poorly Knit." It doesn't matter what genre of music you primarily listen to. You need to hear this band and be amazed at the collisions their music makes.