Thursday, September 3, 2009

Music Review: mewithoutYou - "It's All Crazy..."

Label: Tooth & Nail Records
Release Date: May 19, 2009

Rating: 4/5

It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright, which easily qualifies for one of the strangest (and longest) album titles of the year, is the fourth album from the quirky band, mewithoutYou. It follows up on 2006’s Brother, Sister, and since I’ve not heard any of their previous work, this will be a newbie’s perspective of Crazy. From what I’ve heard, this is quite a different direction for the band, but they’ve crafted a diverse, somewhat hectic collection of songs that highlight the steam-of-consciousness lyrics and unique singing voice of Aaron Weiss and the free-flowing rock instrumentation of the band.

The album explores some very deep themes, which, at times, are almost veiled behind the idiosyncratic musicality of the songs. On “The Fox, The Crow, and the Cookie,” Weiss sings lyrics based on the sufi teachings of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. The story speaks of the dangers of pride and desire for the esteem of others. This is juxtaposed against music that almost sounds like it could fit in on a children’s album. Other songs have a similar dynamic, where Weiss’ understated voice almost belies the depth of issues being explored.

Other times, though, things mesh perfectly. On “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room,” the song builds perfectly as Weiss sings of the inevitability of death from the perspective of King David. The song contains elements of Middle-Eastern music and strikes a perfect, ominous tone. My favorite song, however, was “A Stick, A Carrot, and A String.” Here, Weiss sings of the animals in the manger where Jesus was born, each giving a perspective on what his birth means. The sheep thank him for coming to take their place. The donkey prophesies about Christ riding into Jerusalem. Issues of grace are explored with reference to the prophecies of Isaiah that we can “come and buy with no money.” The song transitions into the Garden of Gethsemane, and the snake perks up when Christ asks for the cup to pass from him. But ultimately, Christ crushes the tools of snake (the carrot and stick). One of the strangest and more poignant songs I’ve heard.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag, really. There’s also a little controversy in the lyrics as well. On “Fig with a Bellyache,” issues of sexual temptation are explored, and there’s this line: “We pretend to care and like we understand, our eyes go soft but know it now, what we're thinking about is your mammary glands and how to sail your birth canal.” I understand the point of the blunt lyrics, but some will no doubt object to such explicit imagery. In other songs, Weiss mentions different types of drugs (marijuana and cocaine). Finally, God is frequently referred to as “Allah” (most notably on the final track “Allah, Allah, Allah”). I know there are reasons behind this, and the band doesn’t claim to be a “Christian band.” Say what you will, but the fact is that “Allah” is very different from the orthodox Christian view of God.

These few lyrical issues don’t really stand out that much, though. Musically, I enjoyed the eclectic rock sound and unusual nature of the lyrics for the most part. I’m not sure how different this album is from their previous work, but I may just have to check those out as well.

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