Last summer, my friend Scott Weber told me I must get into mewithoutYou—that they are a pivotal band, creative and non-linear—every five-dollar word Pitchfork Media would use to worship a Sufjan Stevens or Mogwai album. Putting it nicely, I thought they were rather over-the top and boring at the same time. Where were the driving choruses and upbeat melodies? I mean you have to have one or the other right? Fast forward almost a year later and I’m singing their praises, first acknowledging the pure poetry of their art—from there it was all butter.
MewithoutYou—Aaron Weiss (vocals), Michael Weiss (guitar), Christopher Kleinberg (guitar), Greg Jehanian (bass) and Richard Mazzotta (drums)—release their third full length, Brother, Sister on Tooth and Nail as a triumph of their two pre-existing works. Where [A+B] Life was understood to be a one-time experiment and Catch For Us the Foxes expanded on the artform, establishing a healthy following of avant-garde fans, mewithoutYou continue to bring strong content. With such ambitious and sometimes incomprehensible lyrics, the Philadelphia group have captured a softer tone on Brother, Sister only to reclaim their ability to package an epic.
The album opens up unlike the prior two sets have. Aaron stands imparting his words over a quiet rain: “I do not exist, but faithfully insist.” As that first line suggests the song continues to speak over this inferiority to simply live and notice life as a grace-filled conception at which God gives man no worthy thing to sacrifice other than a broken life. Several other tracks require an inquisitive thinking and research to understand what the lyrics are expressing—some points easily understood, others extremely unorthodox. But hey what do I know? Several of these tracks can be read from contrasting worldviews. For example, “The Sun And the Moon” could either be about God’s omniscience and ever-presence or it could be about man’s want to be inside God’s thoughts and plans. A little confounded but neither residual or shallow the lyrics are the focal point of every mewithoutYou album.
Three tracks (“Yellow Spider”, “Orange Spider”, “Brownish Spider”) are uniquely spread out throughout the album that could only be characterized as acoustic and medieval ballads. The colors mature like the leaves of autumn and reflect some sort of transformation but still leaves this reviewer baffled to what these intermissions seem to translate to.
Aaron addresses the lyrics with several issues epistemologically (“In A Sweater Poorly Knit” and “A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains”), socially (“C Minor”) and theologically (The Sun And the Moon” and “ Messes Of Man”). Over your head? It’s not. Like most Christian poetry, Aaron wrestles through the difficulty of a divine covenant that doesn’t visually rule. Aaron’s voice (lyrics aside) and collective teamwork on the music make for a musical landscape, using dense and atmospheric guitar riffs accentuating the hollow rasp on vocals (Note: Jeremy Enigk (Sunny Day Real Estate) lends his voice on “O, Porcupine”).
No, it’s not catchy pop or infection rock and it’s not meant to be, it’s meant to be creative and in the lyrics especially. The music has grow into a steady background of experimental and ambient noise for the canvas mewithoutYou are painting. Each album has gotten better than the prior. All music fans need not apply, while mewithoutYou would prefer to be for everyone, their creativity does not fit the popular music mold.
Oh, you pious and profane! Put away your pain and blame A glass can only spill what it contains! So if you put out to reclaim The incurably inane A glass can only spill what it contains!