Review Summary: [...][Untitled]
blows in with the force of a category five hurricane. ‘9:27a.m., 7/29’ is as vicious and ugly as Aaron Weiss has sounded since A->B Life
, or perhaps ever. It’s the kind of introduction that sends a message, much like how Brand New’s ‘Vices’ immediately made clear the motives of Daisy
. In this case, however, the raucous start comes as little surprise. mewithoutYou has long been planning for [Untitled]
to be the chaotic successor to the tranquil [untitled]
EP…or the jackal in the sheep flock
, as Weiss sings in the album’s opening verse. Somewhat surprising, on the other hand, is how
mewithoutYou achieves [Untitled]
’s boasted heaviness. Despite several moments where Weiss totally loses his shit – and I mean almost beyond recognition – he actually ends up screaming less here than he did on A->B Life
. The seventh full-length is more intense
than it is loud
, and the band wisely bides its time – planting indecipherable screams and discordant, experimental riffs like landmines in a field. The underlying sense of urgency – combined with these sudden, panicked spikes – creates a consistently unsettled
feeling. The result is mewithoutYou’s most tense and visceral creation.
There’s a wayward progression to this record that evades comfort, familiarity, and order. The way that [Untitled]
shifts gears between harmony and raucousness, often abruptly, can be a little bit disorienting. ‘9:27a.m., 7/29’ kicks down the door, whereas ‘Julia’ is a far more balanced affair, alternating between sludgy/raw guitar work, muted screams, and lyrical references to George Orwell’s 1984
. ‘Another Head for Hydra’ feels like mewithoutYou during their Brother, Sister
heyday, riding their post-hardcore tendencies to a dramatically shouted conclusion. All of this is followed by a five track stretch until we even get another scream out of Aaron. The juxtaposition of styles feels careless upon initial inspection, but over time it could be recognized as an essential aspect of the album’s overarching atmosphere: one of general confusion and disorder. Weaving unpredictably between melodic tunes and all-out barn burners, [Untitled]
assumes a rather entropic identity throughout.
There is a prolonged soft center that is as thoroughly gripping as anything else here. From ‘[dormouse sighs]’ to ‘2,459 Miles’, we are presented with some of the band’s most memorable melodies and intricate experiments to date – even if they don’t bring down the house with any gut-wrenching screams. ‘Winter Solstice’ and ‘Flee, Thou Matadors!’ most obviously demonstrate the former, espousing choruses worthy of daily recitation and harmonies that would not have been all that out of place on Ten Stories
. ‘[dormouse sighs]’ and ‘Tortoises All The Way Down’ are less memorable but more intriguing from a songwriting perspective, with the first sounding like a religious incantation (“fire and a flood, there’s power in the blood”) and the second building ever-so-gradually to a ‘Luca’-like crescendo of “everybody knows…what you’ve done
”, accompanied by thunderous drums and dirty, groovy electric riffs. As the quietest song on the record, ‘2,459 Miles’ actually feels like the odd number out – it’s like an even more hushed ‘Dorothy’ that serves primarily as a bridge back into the mayhem spawned by ‘Wendy & Betsy.’ These five songs are easy to dismiss as secondary to the record’s ferocious beginning and end, but they also have the most depth to unravel through repeated listens.
Like bookends, the tracks that close out [Untitled]
are every bit as jarring as the trio that opened the whole experience. ‘Wendy & Betsy’ is akin to reading an angry letter, starting out as a stream-of-conscious rambling before erupting into this series of banshee-like screams that returns [Untitled]
to the coarse, impulsive state in which it began. ‘New Wine, New Skins’ is quite simply one of the best all-around songs that the band has made, blending tune sense with raw power to the sound of a forlorn chorus: “God's will or come what fortune gives / or is this truly how you choose to live？ Managing a narrative." All of the fear, anger, and dissonance finally boils over on ‘Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore’ – a track so cryptic and with such an epic scope that it feels like being swallowed into a fever dream. It’s a downright frightening song – beginning with a haunting spoken passage before progressing to majestic guitar riffs and masterful drum fills, the likes of which sound even more gritty and magnificent than what closed out ‘Rainbow Signs.’ Weiss’ shrill, tortured wails and lyrical references to slavery (for added context, research the origins of Michael Row the Boat Ashore
) add several layers of mystique and discomfort. By the time everything begins to fade out, it feels like the world has just ended and you’re merely lying there in disbelief…watching the smoke clear with no more answers than before, just the destruction and chaos all around you. It’s a chilling, sobering feeling. There is little doubt that ‘Michael’ is this album’s absolute zenith – and an instant classic worthy of sitting near the top of mewithoutYou’s lauded canon.
When the dust from ‘Michael’ finally settles, mewithoutYou again chooses to end things on a softer note. This time, there are no inside jokes between Aaron and his late father, just the existential ambiguity of the line “someday, I’ll find me.” It’s actually the ideal way to end [Untitled]
, a record that never quite feels assured of its place in this world. It’s ugly and beautiful; one moment subdued and the next blistering. Perhaps that’s exactly the sort of album mewithoutYou was aiming for – a commentary on the bedlam that is modern society. Or maybe it’s merely a byproduct, this instinctual and very human response to uncertainty. One thing is for sure, though: [Untitled]
is not a comfortable listen. It feels like something not meant for our ears – an incredibly spiritual and private moment that’s bound to compelling scripture and woeful, debilitating memories. It’s unfiltered passion that evades qualification; something to which we’d be performing a disservice by assigning a title.