I can’t say I was surprised after the first time I made my way through mewithoutYou’s fourth album It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright. Much like Showbread, Aaron Weiss and company have always made it a point to do their own thing even in the face of preeminent success – a sort of spitting in the wind.
It’s been well publicized that the band lives out a different type of lifestyle: from communal living housing in Philadelphia to a bus that runs on bio-diesel fuels to pot luck dinners with fans before shows.
But the band has come a long way since the early A –> B Life days, where their stage attire was tuxedos and no shoes. On It’s All Crazy!, gone is the aggressive, abrasive tinge, replaced by a relaxed timidity. Released 3 years after Brother, Sister, and with the exception of “Bullet to Binary (Pt. 2)” there is little trace of the scream-yell Weiss is best known for (like on “Nice and Blue (Pt. 2)” or “O, Porcupine” on that album).
It’s as if the band humbled themselves before whatever God they believe in most, and He told them to make a soft folk-rock album. So they did.
I’ll preface my statement by saying I’m just a nobody critic with access to the Internet. If this project has taught me anything besides patience and sacrifice, it’s that you should make up your own opinion about whatever music you want to listen to. If you check out an album, I’ll encourage you to listen to what I feel is the weakest track, only on the basis that it might very well end up being your favorite song.
So with that statement out of the way, I will say that after my first spin of It’s All Crazy!, I was met with total bewilderment. It was the most underwhelming I’d ever felt listening to the band. I would never, ever write them off because of their storied discography, and two records I consider tthe closest thing to perfect any collection of songs could be.
But man, I was just straight up disappointed.
I am thankful to say that, since then, I have come to appreciate It’s All Crazy! because of its place in the mewithoutYou discography. It took a whole other album to come out (Ten Stories from last year) for me to reevaluate my feelings about it.
My biggest issues then were the fact that it felt like the band just… mailed this one in. They were indifferent to the material but had to release something. Granted, that’s just my evaluation, and of course it is difficult to follow up on two impeccable albums (Brother, Sister and Catch For Us The Foxes). The tunes seemed to lack the heart of their previous work.
For example, on opening track “Every Thought a Thought of You” the band uses a Korg keyboard reminiscent of many late 60s and early 70s pop music. Normally I’d be stoked on that, but the way it’s utilized with such an even tempo throughout and little variation, it becomes monotonous. I was put off even from the top of the album.
It didn’t get better with “The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie” where I did my best to resist the main criticism of Weiss’s vocal tendencies. The song’s stacked metaphors left me desiring something more simple and digestible. One of the highlights of the album follows though: “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room.” It’s a beautiful tale and recaptures the spirit and soul for which the band has come to be known.
There’s a few more duds on the album, and some ever-increasingly confusing lyrics. “Fig With a Bellyache” has a vague allusion to homosexuality:
That dog below our waist aroused, when arms embraced the pretty gals/
It came much more as a surprise, it happening when I hugged the guys
…what? That one is a real head scratcher considering the band’s religious worldview. If it’s a metaphor, it’s a convoluted one at best.
No question that the back end of this record redeems the front end. “Bullet to Binary (pt. Two)” is a return to form, as is “Timothy Hay.” Closer “Allah, Allah, Allah” beckons the memory and spirit of “In a Sweater Poorly Knit,” considered by many to be their best song.
Tl;dr version: I didn’t like this album for a long time with the exception of a few tracks, but it’s a grower, and I’m glad I bore through the indifference I felt toward it.
From their 2009 release It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright, this is mewithoutYou’s “Allah, Allah, Allah” –
Standout tracks: “Bullet to Binary (pt. Two)”; “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room”; “Fig with a Bellyache”; “Allah, Allah, Allah”
Weakest track: “Goodbye, I!”
RIYL: Stripped down acoustic-driven neo-folk.