Good Review: Continuing the Awesome
MewithoutYou's new album continues their reflections on spirituality in contemporary society. Rather than saying, "Woe is me, yet I have kept my faith after all these years in this evil world," or "Fuck faith, I've found reason," the truth is somewhere in between. The thinking, spiritual band's new album is an affirmation of both faith and reason, and their respective struggles. The longest title for any album I've bought this year comes from a book of parables by Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. This becomes the key to unlocking the album, which is a wonderful mixing of parables and music. The parables all make sense, and the music begins to support them, and like any good parable, they tend to stick with me. Great album, go buy it now. I've already listened to it 32 times. The complexity of themes and music that I've come to love about mwY is still going strong. Again, their album artwork is the best in the business.
Bad Review: A Lawnmower Engine Screws and is Screwed by a Mac Truck
First off, this is not mewithoutYou. The music and vocals are awesome, as we've come to expect from mewithoutYou, but the songs too often take on the structure of the story they are telling - and a lot of these parables are not by mewithoutYou. Because of the similar structure of the parables, a lot of the songs start to take on the same structure and the album is a progressive rock album. Which isn't terrible, it just means that sometimes it's hard to distinguish each song from the other. I'm not saying the mwY cannot make music inspired by others, I'm just saying that this album feels more like a tribute album to Bawa Muhaiyadden (Bawa put to music) and not like a mewithoutYou album. The music is strangled by the need to match it up with these stories - I feel like the songs were not allowed to grow to their full fruition because of being shackled to this other medium - these written and told parables that are already judged. From perception the human mind should discern, not judge. The western mind judges and holds just or novel judgments in high esteem. In short, I feel the album and the parables are shackled by each other. Bawa and the music should change in such a fundamental way that something new comes forth. Unfortunately that doesn't happen here and the premise falls flat. Though there are some great songs, the album does not attain what it set out to and it feels like putting a lawnmower engine in a Mac Truck - sure it'll work, but neither will work as well as they should because both are designed for different situations. So taking mewithoutYou and making them an interpretive band, and taking Bawa and making him a lyricist, then placing the whole contraption in the context of contemporary music just doesn't work. That said, I've listened to it 33 times. Though it is a failure for mewithoutYou, it is still more interesting than most things out there.
Final Review: It Polarizes Me.
Though the basic premise of the album doesn't work, it still manages to be one of the best albums I've heard all year. It's a bit like if Keanu Reeves would've played Rick Deckard in Blade Runner - sure it still would've been a good movie, maybe even great, and he's competent enough to briefly make it work, but NO. Just NO. Reeves should not play Deckard. He could, but that doesn't change the fact that he shouldn't. I feel the same way about mewithoutYou's new album: sure you could mate these two different aspects of your life, but you shouldn't have. Really. These stories would've been much better put to hip-hop, because that's what hip-hop does - it gives us parables to follow. But after all this, dear God it's a damn good album and much better than most things I've heard so far this year.
photo by corymassa