Release Date: Apr 28, 2015
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Ever since they broke onto the scene almost 20 years ago with their delightful debut, A Triumph for Man, the Danish quartet Mew have proven to be among the most idiosyncratic and charming bands around. While they are often cited as merely an alternative rock band, their shimmering guitar lines, dreamy production, and seductive yet inviting melodies (delivered with graceful falsetto angst by vocalist Jonas Bjerre) make them more ambitious than that lone classification would denote. Nowhere in their discography is this unique attitude more perfected than on 2005’s And the Glass Handed Kites, a conceptual beast with seamless segues whose centerpiece, “The Zookeeper’s Boy”, still stands as Mew’s best piece.
Spare in name only, Mew's sixth studio long-player is even more ambitious than 2009's loftily 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, doubling down on the shimmery, light/dark Passion Pit-inspired electro-pop that served as the foundation for their last major-label outing, while bringing back some of the angular post-rock angst of earlier works like Frengers (2003) and And the Glass Handed Kites (2005). It's the latter work that looms largest on + -, their first release for Belgian independent label PIAS (Play It Again Sam), due in large part to it being a reunion with producer Michael Beinhorn and bass player Johan Wohlert, neither of whom had worked with the band since their 2005 outing. Beinhorn and Wohlert's contributions add some sonic weight to the proceedings, as does, to a lesser extent, Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack, who provides the album with its meatiest offering, the blistering "My Complications," which he co-wrote.
Mew have always managed to maintain an air of mystery. After their last record – 2009’s epically-titled ‘No More Stories…’ - the band spent a year or so traditionally touring, but they soon sank back into their more interspersed and unpredictable patterns. Since the release of their last record six years ago, they’ve graced UK shores for fewer live appearances than you can count on your fingers.
Denmark’s Mew are justly adored by a small but loyal band of followers off the back of an excellent brace of albums in the mid-noughties: 2003’s Frengers and 2005’s And The Glass Handed Kites. Mew’s progression across these two albums is comparable to that of Radiohead across The Bends and OK Computer: Frengers – on which Mew established their ability to write affecting, anthemic rock songs – was their The Bends, while And The Glass Handed Kites – the ‘difficult’ follow-up – was their OK Computer. The knotty time signatures and tangential arrangements of And The Glass Handed Kites resulted in Mew being slapped with the ‘prog rock’ label.
For fans of Mew, the tranquil opening sequence to +- is a bit unsettling. Frengers — Mew's affectionate name for their devotees — want to lose themselves in the comforting sounds of Jonas Bjerre's soft, youthful voice floating over his band's signature ambient guitar and synth wash, but instead of experiencing their usual euphoria, the intro racks Frengers with anxiety in anticipation of the ten new Mew tracks they've waited six years to hear. Luckily, the melancholic sequence at the beginning of +- is soon met by an ominous orchestral-like clash of cymbals and grandiose distortion.
You expect Mew to play the angles, every single one of them. Fortunately none of them are ever obtuse..
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Danish band Mew has always been known for making 'big' music that's not necessarily easy to categorise. Mew have never been subtle in their music; they've consistently made use of multiple guitar layers, anthemic melodies and left barely any space left untouched by sound in their songs. This has led them to be filed under either shoegaze or prog - two of music's most extravagant genres - although neither really fits their own peculiar grandeur.
Jonas Bjerre’s voice has always been surreal. The frontman and singer for Danish art rock band Mew has a keen ability to sound even more ethereal than Jónsi himself, the king of European falsettos. He opts for delicate, airy notes amidst Mew’s harsher rock. Even as the throes of No More Stories’ “Repeaterbeater” slam with catastrophic force or And The Glass-Handed Kites’ “Why Are You Looking Grave?” rolls into shoegaze, Bjerre holds destruction at bay with his frail, thin vocals, pinching the guitars between his thumb and middle finger, shaking them until they begin to look like rubber.
A summation of Mew's position: Mew are seriously uncool; they are also too cool to be popular; they are somehow both at the same time. Blame prog-rock for giving them a raw deal. The Danish quartet certainly had the optics to earn the tag: witness their magnificent hair and garish album covers. They've also released only two LPs in the past nine years, and one was meant to be listened to as a continuous 54-minute suite and had a 23-word poem as its title.
I might be wrong, but it strikes me that Mew are a band especially beloved of musicians. It’s not hard to see why. Over the course of what has now become a long career, the Danish quartet have, it seems, become increasingly fearless. This, their first album since 2009’s No More Stories… continues their grand tradition.
It’s six years since Danish prog/art-rockers Mew released their tortuously titled album 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. Their follow up +/- is more succinctly named but sees them continue in their proggy-pop tradition, this time with a cameo from Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack. His appearance on My Complications is a jarring moment on an album that revels in spaced-out moments of ambient, with his riffs – for a moment – disrupting the zen.
Six years of near-silence was all we had from Mew following 2009 record No More Stories…, discounting their ‘greatest hits’ compilation. The record, an experimental odyssey of space-rock, world beats, obscure art music techniques and oddball pop left a bittersweet aftertaste that many fans were unable to come to terms with – it remains their most divisive record of their post-Frengers era, with some decrying it left, right and centre, and others applauding the ingenious subversion of genres and expectations. If nothing else, it was a Mew album through and through.
You know about the big releases each week, but what about those smaller albums which may have passed underneath your radar. Don’t miss out on the smaller, lesser-known gems which might become some of your favourites. We’ve rounded up six of the best new album releases from this week: catch up ….