Review by Andrew Leahey
With their 10th anniversary on the horizon, mewithoutYou opt to chase a different muse with It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright, whose exhaustive title is buoyed by an emphasis on offbeat folk music and fractured Neutral Milk Hotel-styled acoustics. Gone are the screamo flourishes and hoarse, half-shouted lyrics, having been replaced by what amounts to experimental campfire music with occasional stabs of orchestral chaos. "I've got a Walnut-brownie brain and Molasses in my veins," sings frontman Aaron Weiss, who goes on to mention everything from "powdered sugar funnel cake cocaine" to "Carob-colored almond eyes" in his stream-of-consciousness zeal. The culinary picture he creates is fairly nonsensical, but the emphasis here is on the music, whose unexpected turns will either appetize or repulse longtime listeners. This is a band that routinely stretches the conventions of Christian-based rock, and It's All Crazy! is perhaps their most boundary-defying album to date.
By Phillip Roffman on May 26th, 2009
mewithoutYou has been giving their listeners quite the reason to keep their ears pressed against their headphones for the past couple of years. With their outlandish expressiveness found in their harmonies, lyrics and, above all, lack of cleanliness, it’s hard to ignore the band. That’s why since the release of [A-B] Life, fans keep a sharp lookout for any new material. Needless to say, it’s been a long, winding path, filled with surprises and alternatives.
Take the band’s 2004 sophomoric effort, Catch for Us the Foxes, for example. While the album strayed away from the “garage” sound and lacked the vigor of [A-B] Life, it was still a good listen. To this day, “Torches Together” still entertains, especially when Aaron Weiss screams “Strum the guitar!” over and over towards the finale of the song. Let’s not forget “January 1979?, a song anyone can scream to, no matter where they are in public. Still, nothing comes close to the band’s third effort, Brother, Sister, a diamond cut of an album, sporting frenetic tracks like “Wolf Am I! (and Shadow)”, “A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains” or “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”. Some might consider the album the band’s best to date, far surpassing their debut, which rarely happens, at least in today’s day and age.
Thus, history brings us to today, with the release of their fourth album, wildly titled It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright. On first listen, things have changed. Even the average fan will notice the band’s deep focus on folk and acoustics, begging the question, “What the hell happened?” An educated guess might assume that melancholy settled in, something rather explicit on songs “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room”, “The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie”, or “Goodbye, I” — all complete with this sense of disenchantment.
It’s confusing, really, trying to understand what happened. It’s as if mewithoutYou took their original sound, buried it six feet deep, and left no trace of it to be found. Then they retreated indoors and started from scratch with one hell of a boiler-plate idea: Let’s score a children’s film. Really, that’s the only logical explanation here, and that doesn’t even start to answer the ensuing list of baffling questions.
What happened to the angry, self aware Weiss, who would talk of self loathing and the sadness of the outside world? Where did the biblical references go? You know, the ones that would merely brush the surface of radicalism yet still hold the attention to even the most agnostic fiend around? Where is the aggression? Where is the motive to listen? Nowhere, and this is the saddest part. The factor that held so many mewithoutYou fans were the stories within the songs themselves and those stories have been replaced by those of a farmer’s, who’s recognition of food, farming and goods warrant nothing but celebrated yawns.
Upon listening, any fan of mewithoutYou (and not just of Weiss’s “aggression”) will likely tire towards the middle of the album, beginning with the ultra-drab “Timothy Hay”. Lyrically, Weiss had to have run out of ideas and it’s as if the band followed suit. You’ll notice the drums aren’t as impacting and moving as they once were before, and the bass is nearly non-existent. In fact, the only “hard-hitting” guitar parts found throughout the album is an acoustic being strummed, um, heavily. Some may disagree, but “Bullet to Binary (Pt. Two)” doesn’t deserve to have the title of its predecessor, as it’s not even remotely catchy nor attractive to the ears.
With this new approach, one can only assume that mewithoutYou is trying to forget the past and focus on the present, or at least capitalize on the ever thriving folk community today. Regardless of the reasons, It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright is a disappointment for the ones that fell in love with the band’s unique assembly of sounds. If that drew you to the band, ignore this record and move on to greener pastures. Now, if you don’t mind this newer acoustic sharp turn, give the record a spin. Worst case scenario? One less band to buy albums from.