In the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn, NY there is a live music venue called the Warsaw where you can see any number of really great indie bands and performers while you buy freshly made pirogues and other Polish foods. The sound acoustics are not very good at all, but there is an undeniable charm to the venue that makes up for its shortcomings. Plus, the pirogues are really, really good.
This was where I first heard mewithoutYou as they opened up for Minus the Bear and promptly bought their cd Catch Us for the Foxes. This was loud music, rock with a fiercely driving force behind it that assaulted the senses. Yet within moments, an equally fierce intelligence and poetry became apparent.
January, 1979 saw a terrible crash (and couldn’t help but laugh.)
My ear pressed against the pass like a glass on a wall of a house in a photograph.
My forehead no longer sweet with the holy kisses worthy of your fiery lips.
I was floating in a peaceful sea ‘rescued’ by a sinking ship.
If I could become the servant of all – no lower place to fall.
You watched me like a 10 car highway wreck with detached, vulgar curiosity. this looking down at the tops of the hats of us passers-by from your 7th story balcony… from such a height you missed the creatures too small for sight carry on covert conversation and the misguided insects crowned me their grasshopper king with a dance of celebration!
After years with a crown on my head I’ve grown overfed, unconcerned, and comfortably numb kept busy indulging in pleasures of the wealthy (someone make me afraid of what I’ve become!) At the first sign of possible trouble I turned my heels and ran (Oh, I’ll never learn) my life is a cup of sugar I borrowed before time began and forgot to return
It was a matter of time – I always said I could see now I’m going blind, it was a matter of miserable time — but I heard somewhere there was a cure for useless eyes?
Every time I listen to Catch Us for the Foxes, I find something new: a particular guitar hook or rhythm change that excites me or a particular lyrical phrase that gives me pause, makes me think, or just catches my breath with its sheer poetry. Whenever an album reveals new bits and pieces of itself with each new listen, you know you’ve found a collection of songs that mean something. For that reason, I would easily put Catch Us for the Foxes amongst the top 100 albums I would take to a deserted island.1
mewithoutYou is on the Tooth and Nail label, and, yes, the label is invested in bands that could be labeled “Christian.” But this isn’t your 80s, Winger style of Christian rock. These bands come out of the punk and underground music scenes and, honestly, putting a religious label on this music is entirely unnecessary. Tom Waits sings spirituals, Nick Cave has a deeply religious outlook, but they would never be called Christian Rock. Similarly, mewithoutYou obviously has certain spiritual beliefs and these beliefs show up in their songs at various points, but to pigeonhole this band into such an obviously ideological genre as Christian Rock would be a disservice to the band and to any listeners who would be turned off without even listening. Regardless of your beliefs, mewithoutYou offers energetic, intense, thoughtful, and poetic music with a post-punk aesthetic that deserves to be turned up and turned up loud. Besides, how do you categorize a band with this background:
The Weiss brothers are of Jewish descent and their songs explore Judeo-Christian themes. The Weiss brothers were also raised in a Sufi household—their mother had converted from the Episcopal church, and their father from Judaism. Due to the Christian themes of Aaron Weiss’ lyrics, they have been categorized as a Christian band, although in interview, A. Weiss has stated he doesn’t think they are a Christian band. Their lyrics reflect a personal relationship with God, and are not evangelistic. Other lyrical themes explored include suffering and self-doubt. Wikipedia
Since Catch Us for the Foxes, the band has released two albums, Brother, Sister and the 2009 release It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright The latter is getting a lot of mixed feedback from fans because the sound is radically different, with more melody and no screaming from Weiss and a good deal more experiments in instrumentation and composition that stray from the aggressive guitars and pounding drums of their earlier work (yes, that’s an accordion you hear on “Goodbye, I” ). However, the intelligence remains, as does the poetry of the lyrics and the tension between joy and doubt, questions and answers, matter and spirit. Musically the album is more diverse than previous efforts and I actually like the shift in tone as it allows the band to explore new and different ideas.
And new and different is exactly why I liked the band in the first place.
Video for Paper Hanger
Video for Nice and Blue (Part Two)
mewithoutYou MySpace page
mewithoutYou Purevolume streaming site
mewithoutYou on Last.FM
mewithoutYou Wikipedia entry – Fun fact from Wikipedia, it appears that the band tours in a bus that runs on peanut oil.
mewithoutYou on Amazon
mewithoutYou Web Store
On this day..
- Clouds - 2012
- The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire - 2010
- Snow Leopard News - The oops, that's not good edition - 2009
- The Republican Party Leadership Is . . . (add your own description in the comments) - 2008
- You may think that 100 albums seems an awful lot of music so that this endorsement isn’t all that impressive, but considering that I have music from over 1500 albums on my computer, something that makes the top 100 is definitely something I like a whole lot. [↩]