I break the indie scene cardinal rule in that I don’t “get” Fugazi. Yes, I own quite a few of their albums (all bought used) and actually enjoy quite a number of tracks. Their best stuff sounds good until you realize that they sound like Sonic Youth b-sides. And then you start wonder what all of the fuss is about. Because I’ll take Sonic Youth any day over Fugazi. I know people will disagree with me… but more often than once I’m absentmindedly listening to a song and I wonder what’s playing. My first guess is Sonic Youth and I’m wrong. Or my first guess is Fugazi and the song is crap. So that may be why I’ve never quite understood how so much music can get compared to Fugazi these days. (If someone want’s to enlighten me, I’m definitely open to hearing about it below.)
People have been calling mewithoutYou a Fugazi knock-off. Ok, I don’t really see it but I’m sure they’re more attune to the Fugazi difference than I am. The only thing I know is that mewithoutYou doesn’t sound like Sonic Youth (though they, like every other rock band, owe them a magnificent debt) and their songs aren’t crap.
Upon first listening to mewithoutYou you will come to the conclusion that I came to when I first heard “[A->B] Life,” their first album. You will notice how emotional Aaron Weiss’ delivery is and how poetic they make things and you will label them an “emo” band. It’s not bad to have emotion in music and it’s not bad to be artistic and the combination of the two does not equal emo. What separates “emo” from music with emotion is that emo is a trend and will die with the trend while music with emotion will rise above it and become separate. mewithoutYou has become something separate because, although this is only their second album, they have proved that they are not a trend but genuine.
You cannot listen to “Catch For Us The Foxes” quietly. Which was the mistake I first made which made the album a disappointment for me at first. We listened to it at work, and we can’t play music loud at work of course. The album blended together and became one giant song in my mind. Then I got the album and listened to it at home with headphones while reading the lyrics. That’s when the album opens up and reveals it’s true nature.
The lyrics are, simply put, incredible. They blow away Fugazi. They blow away your trendy brother’s favorite emo band. With lines like, “…on the shelf beside the bed where at night you lay turning like a door on it’s hinges? (first on your left side, then on your right side, then your left side again.)” and “Why pluck one string- what good is just one note? Oh, one string sounds fine I guess… we were once ‘one notes’” from the song “Torches Together.” Perhaps my favorite lyrics are displayed in “The Soviet,” where Weiss sings, “God is love and love is real” followed by “As the night-time shined like day it saw my sorry face, hair a mess but it liked me best that way (besides, how else could I confess? When I looked down as if to pray, well I was looking down her dress…)”
The vocals are delivered as they must be to be believed. You know Weiss has spent many-a-night staring at his clock, then his ceiling, then his wall. The result is that the vocals have a quality to them that would make them equally at home in a smokey poetry club. Most of the verse lines are sung, but with a certain pronunciation that gives them a sort of spoken word feel, allowing Weiss to put the full bite into them.
Thankfully, instead of an ad-libbed bongo accompanying Weiss, there is finely crafted songs that take mewithoutYou beyond “just a poetry act” and makes “Catch For Us The Foxes” and album that insists you listen to it. The subtle touches are the best. For instance, on “Tie Me Up! Untie Me!” they put an effect on the guitar at the end of verse one. That effect would usually rise and fall in pitch in a steady fashion, however, mewithoutYou takes that idea and has it just fall and fall until it falls out of audible range and right when you feel like it’s going to just disappear, they add a metallic clang, making you feel like you just fell off a cliff and went “splat!” at the bottom.
The production on this album takes some getting used to. At first I thought it sounded bad, but once I adjusted to it, it wasn’t a distraction. I’m still not sure it was the wisest idea to have it done that way, but that may be why they made the cd and not I. That is a small detail and I hope this record gets the number of listens it deserves. I doubt if it tops my yearly best-of list, but don’t be surprised if it’s lurking on there somewhere.
[Note: The cd is listed as enhanced... however, it's about as enhanced as calling the ocean red because you dropped a bucket of red paint in it. The only thing it does is directs your web browser to the Tooth and Nail Records web page.]