It’s ironic that the discography of arguably the best non-hardcore Tooth & Nail band got kicked off with what could best be described as a punk record, punctuated by two electronic instrumental interruptions.
mewithoutYou’s debut release [A → B] Life (read as “A to B Life”) is about as strange as the previous sentence. As I’ve written before, the band is responsible for two classic releases: Catch For Us the Foxes and Brother, Sister.
I want to know: what the hell happened then, in the 2 years between this album (2002) and Catch For Us The Foxes (2004)? To this day, that record is my favorite of the group’s. But it’s so entirely different: ethereal, refined, at times touching. A to B is brash, edgy and unrefined – far and away the group’s most aggressive and abrasive work.
AND it’s got a song about stalking (“Gentleman,” the best song on the album), for crying out loud. What changed?
Regardless of what type of training the band underwent – which I can only assume is similar to the “Nice and Blue (pt. 2)” video from Brother, Sister – A to B is, for me, the low point in the mewithoutYou catalogue.
In spite of this, there are some redeeming gems: namely, the aforementioned creep-happy “Gentleman” (“And you’d better be alone.”) and “Silencer.” But the legacy of this album is that lead vocalist Aaron Weiss and co. try to play as few songs from this album as possible because of how different it was.
This hesitation to revisit his angry past is best evidenced on the original “Nice and Blue,” where in a moment of reflection, Weiss says:
“I’m not the boy I once was
But I’m not the man I’ll be.”
Whether or not it was his intention, or if he even knew what he was saying, that’s about as honest an approach as one could have. It foreshadows their hyper-speed maturation, one for which I am thankful, considering the impact their next two records have had on me.
Something else that’s neat about this album is the appearance of the ‘original’ “Bullet to Binary” and “Nice and Blue.” I love how the band kept with the themes of certain songs, continuing them from album to album: “Bullet to Binary (pt. 2)” appears on It’s All Crazy! and “Nice and Blue (pt. 2)” shows up on Brother, Sister. Similar lyrical content as well, bridging the story gap in each.
The two instrumentals for which the album is named, “(A)” and “(B)” are so unlike the rest of the record in their lack of aggression and pure electronica. It’s just an extra layer of weird lumped on the pile. They’re good, but I’m not sure they fit.
Also of note here is the beautiful artwork by Vasily Kafanov, the artist responsible for each of their covers. He also did Smashing Pumpkins’ Machina and their giant tour backdrops. Good stuff.
From their strangest release (yet, anyway), [A → B] Life, this is mewithoutYou’s “The Ghost” –
Standout tracks: “Gentleman” and “Silencer”
Weakest track: “We Know Who Our Enemies Are” or “The Cure for Pain”
RIYL: I don’t even know. Post-hardcore? Thrice? O’Brother? Suggest away, here.