I don’t have a favorite album of all time.
With all the incredible music that is readily available, I could never narrow it down to just one. Put to the “Desert Island” test, I’d have a nervous breakdown trying to whittle down the list of about… ten or so records that mean more to me than I can even put into words.
This is one of those albums.
Even now, I’m overwhelmed trying to explain what this band and this album mean to me. This type of album makes the creative process for others moot. We should just stop. There’s no point in making anything anymore, because it’s all downhill from here.
(p.s. by the way, if it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am.)
mewithoutYou used to be a post-hardcore band (A to B Life in particular), but moved on to a more ethereal/atmospheric progressive/post-rock band. Though various sites still describe them as post-hardcore, I don’t buy it. Yeah, there’s some yelling, and some heaviness at times, but it’s certainly not Thursday, a true post-hardcore band.
Seguing from A to B Life to Catch For Us The Foxes brought a much more refined sound, less overt power chords, and a lot more spoken word vocals. Lead singer/philosopher Aaron Weiss makes himself more vulnerable than I’ve heard from almost any singer-songwriter to date.
Look, it’s one thing to talk about one’s fears or flaws. Any songwriter does that. But it’s another thing entirely to genuinely bare one’s soul in an intelligent manner for all to read and hear – and mean it. That’s precisely what Weiss, an adjunct professor and grad student at Temple University, has done with each entry in the mewithoutYou discography.
It’s not sugar-coated or processed for mass consumption. It’s not to make money or get groupies. When I listen to the band’s albums, I hear a down to earth, intelligent person trying to work through the issues in his life through music. The exploration of topic matters like faith, doubt, and suicide in such an honest-to-goodness, pure way is refreshing.
The fact that it’s engaging and so affecting – and that it has touches so many others, including me – is all evidence to the point.
For example, this, from “The Soviet”:
As the night-time shined like day it saw my sorry face and hair a mess
But it liked me best that way… besides, how else could I confess?
When I looked down like if to pray,
Well, I was looking down her dress… good God!
Please, catch for us the foxes in the vineyard… the little foxes.
Other lyrics explore at length religious philosophies including the “holy trinity” of religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Though often dubbed as a “Christian band,” Weiss and co. claim to have no binding religious affiliation. Weiss himself was raised by a Muslim mother and Jewish father (though both are now Sufi Muslims). The result is a fascinating blend of ideas – but let there be no mistake, and as I’ve written before: one shouldn’t not listen to a band because of their religious affiliation. Especially this band.
There isn’t an excuse for not giving this band a shot. The primary critique of mewithoutYou is probably the vocals, because of the non-traditional sing-song-shout-yell approach that Weiss takes. They’re unique though, much like the band is on the whole.
I think Catch For Us The Foxes is the pinnacle of the mewithoutYou catalogue. Many will argue for Brother, Sister because of how pretty it is (you know the “Spider” tracks are adorable, don’t front, man). Not just that, of course, because it also is jam-packed from end to end with some of the most engaging and thought-provoking music and lyrics I’ve ever heard.
Both Brother, Sister and Catch For Us are… pristine. In every way. Hyperbole aside, it almost hurts to consider that within a two year period, one band managed to produce not one but two of the most well-rounded, dare I say flawless albums that I’ve ever heard.
Some may also argue for A to B Life because of how raw and passionate that album was, setting the stage for one of the most unique and popular bands on Tooth & Nail/Solid State. But in retrospect, that album is so angry; it just looks like the teenager that it was. Listen to “Gentleman” and tell me that’s something that Aaron eventually got over. Same thing. Eventually, you move on from it and learn from your past.
Chronologically, Catch For Us The Foxes is the perfect blend between dark (A to B) and light (Brother, Sister). It captures the hopelessness from A to B and redemptive nature of Brother, Sister.
It’s obvious that I can’t seem to say enough good about this band. Drummer Ricky Mazzotta is a maniac live, like an obnoxious, theatrical Zach Galafianakis. Guitarist Michael Weiss is so close to being in a Smashing Pumpkins cover band it’s scary. And bassist Greg Jehanian (who has a fantastic side project called Geology – check them out) always manages to punctuate songs with some fuzzy, creative lines.
mewithoutYou is a delight. Just don’t make me pick a “desert island” album.
From 2004, here’s “Disaster Tourism”:
Standout tracks: For me, “Disaster Tourism” and “Linear” (or “Leaf” which I believe was its original title). But…
Weakest track: …there isn’t a bad tune on it. No. None.
RIYL: Philosophy, religious studies. As Cities Burn, O’Brother, Colour Revolt – but even those bands still can’t touch mwY’s sound.