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MewithoutYou - [Untitled] (Album Review)

Thursday, 25 October 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Sixteen years on from the release of their debut album ‘(A→B) Life’ Philadelphia indie-rockers MewithoutYou have found a second wind as they return to the religious and existential themes of their early work, expressing them in a more intense and claustrophobic way on album seven, ‘[Untitled]’.

From the explosive opener 9:27a.m., 7/29, the band are a long way from the indie-folk ramblings of 2009’s 'It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright' as impactful riffs fill up the canvas. Interestingly, Aaron Weiss's passionate, yelping vocals are buried in the mix, an artistic decision that seems to lend itself to the wider story.

Listeners unfamiliar with MewithoutYou's work perhaps won't catch the significance of the cryptic and apocalyptic imagery he conjures throughout this album (“we were the scourge of the earth / offerings unpoured, unliturgical drink / it'd be a pearl of a time now for virgin birth”), but his Christian background has always been a source of powerful lyricism.

Weiss's lyrics have often delved into religious guilt and gnawing self doubt, but in the bleak wasteland of ‘[Untitled]’ they take on a deeper resonance. When he adapts a 19th century hymn on [dormouse sighs] (“Fire and a flood / there's power in the blood / of every little lamb / wonder working power”), he appears as some kind of intense Pentecostal preacher surveying the hellscape around him.

What's the narrative strand running through? That's harder to pin down due to the numerous literary references and allusions to various revolutions and ancient kingdoms, but the most palpable component of it all is the black cloud being painted on the horizon.

To that end, every band member plays their part: Brandon Beaver's howling guitar licks on Wendy & Betsy are beautifully apt, while bassist Dominic Angelella's progressions are simplistically perfect, building up the ominous atmosphere. Most impressive of all is drummer Richard Mazzotta, whose dynamic rhythms transform several tracks into brooding masterpieces. 

Wind back 10 years and the road for MewithoutYou was perhaps less clear. Their move towards a more playful style suggested the band had moved past the angst of their early records, especially at at a time when terms like 'emo' and 'post-hardcore' had developed negative connotations.

However, in the current climate, Weiss's menacing poetics are more compelling and capture the zeitgeist in a way the band surely never expected. The fact his bandmates have also improved technically and artistically in every conceivable way makes for an album that should be recognised as one of 2018's best, years after MewithoutYou were last deemed to be on the cutting edge of things. 



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