Release Date: Apr 28, 2017
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
When founding guitarist/backing vocalist Bo Madsen announced his departure from Danish alt-rock/dream pop outfit Mew in 2015, fans were left fearful about the group's future plans and potential. After all, these frengers (a mixture of "friend" and "stranger", taken from 2003's third LP) are some of the most dedicated devotees in modern music, and while Mew became a trio once before—when bassist Johan Wohlert left in 2006, only to return in 2013—they had an abundance of visiting musicians to help flesh out 2009's No More Stories…. In contrast, their seventh entry, Visuals, features only the other three original members (Wohlert, drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen, and lead vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Jonas Bjerre) in addition to some help from guest guitarist Mads Wegner.
Mew's seventh set, Visuals, is a magical journey through a dream pop landscape that goes easy on the crunchy muscle of earlier efforts. Opting for atmospherics over bombast, Mew focus on mood over tight pop song structure, which is rewarding for fans of the the lusher portions of their prior album, + -. As the album sparkles to life on "Nothingness and No Regrets," each song drifts into the ether of the next, sometimes bubbling to life with dancey new wave brightness ("The Wake of Your Life") or urgent rock groove ("Ay Ay Ay").
In Sam Gosling's book Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You , the psychology professor sheds light on the complex workings of identity--for example, the person who identifies as a cultured world traveler when in fact he never ventures beyond the homogenous comfort of the resort. Mew sound like a band for pop natives who fancy themselves intrepid explorers of indie, prog, and art-rock, but who don't learn the language. The members of Mew resist an identification with progressive rock themselves, but the grandiosity of their music has led others to tag them as such.
Much like the country in which it was conceived, 'Visuals', the seventh album from Danish dream-poppers Mew, harbours an imposing nature concealed behind its inherent beauty. Written while on the road in support of previous release ‘+-‘, there's a definite sense of the band attempting to, and succeeding in, capturing what frontman Jonas Bjerre refers to as a 'creative peak'. Though coming twenty years in to their career, the peak to which Jonas refers sees Mew injected with a vigour most often seen on debuts; a feeling of youthful exuberance manifest in the sugary stomp of 'Candy Pieces All Smeared Out', or the heady fizz of lead single '85 Video'.
Danish trio Mew are hipsters outside the cool scene; prog-rockers more interested in creating epic, dreamy pop than singing about ancient monuments. They've made a career from going their own way, often to startlingly impressive effect, but with Visuals, for the first time it feels like they've fallen short. Their seventh album arrives only two years after + - and comes without guitarist Bo Madsen, who left the band in 2015.
Danish prog/indie rock group Mew typically take several years off in between albums, but their seventh full-length, Visuals, comes just two years after 2015's +- and marks their first without guitarist Bo Madsen. The quick turnaround time, combined with the absence of one of their founding members, is noticeable, and marks a slight shift in Mew's usual dynamic of sharp, irregular melodies and glowing warmth. On Visuals, Mew still sound magnificent and ornate as ever, with soaring strings and sparkling synth flourishes reaching stadium-level heights. But the now-trio is lacking the jagged precision of Madsen's agile and spiky guitar playing.