6 May 2017
Mew - Visuals
Mew are an act that I have heard about, they had been mentioned by friends over the years. Also when looking in my collection I found I had one of their earlier tracks in my collection ('Tricks' from 'No More Stories/Are Told Today/I'm Sorry/They Washed Away//No More Stories/The World Is Grey/I'm Tired/Let's Wash Away') but it did not seem too familiar when I was playing it before I started this review (still a good song though). What I am basically trying to say in a long, rambling way is that I do not know too much about them. Well, here is what I could get from the internet about them - Formed in 1995 in Hellerup (a suburb of Copenhagen), Denmark, the band have released six albums before releasing 'Visuals' and seem to have making waves wherever they play, supporting acts such as Nine Inch Nails and had their music used on TV programs as well. I have no idea how I have missed out on them before, but they seem to have passed me by. So, you may be asking yourself why I am reviewing this album, after not really paying any attention beforehand. Well, it is the age-old game that I play on here called 'Cover Roulette'! A tiny bit more background before I start the review - in order to help me keep my mind focused, I review an album that is picked just for the cover, nothing else - I must not know anything about the band beforehand, it must be new music. It keeps this musical journey interest and now it is time to find out what Mew are all about......
01 - Nothingness and No Regrets
Opening this album is 'Nothingness and No Regrets' which starts with a dreamscape opening that is very close to Dreampop, but there is more to the sound. You can hear the progressive rock influence, you can hear the indie influence and it all comes together to make this music that sounds as if joy has been made incarnate. The lyrics are tainted with sadness at a perceived lack of faith in a union and letting something fade to dust, whilst the other is bemoaning the lack of care and attention that is being received. It is a melancholic song, wrapped in a joyous coat of music, I love the contrast and it is an enjoyable opening.
02 - The Wake of Your Life
It seems to be that Mew like to deal with nostalgia and endings a lot on their songs, as 'The Wake of Your Life' is another bowl of sadness with happy music sprinkled on top to cover the tears. I am not too sure if the lyrics are about the loss of a loved one (parent or partner) to the great beyond or if it is just looking back at another relationship gone wrong and reflecting on things at a later date. It could really be interpreted in both ways. The music does have a sad taint to it, but it is still larger than life and full of some joyous passages that there is a feeling that is almost ambivalent - as these two contrasting emotions should not be living in the same space. But it is a great song, make no doubt about that one.
03 - Candy Pieces All Smeared Out
Starting with a heavy guitar opening, you are introduced to another song that is heavy on nostalgia and deals with the different aspects of a person's personality, being happy in someone's arms, the burden of love and how everything can be all of this and nothing at the same time. Mew love to delve into those murky waters and create a song that has so many different things happening, but on 'Candy Pieces All Smeared Out' they have really out done themselves. This is the best song I have heard so far in 2017, it has truly eclipsed anything else out there in terms of instant reaction, sound, passion and the ability to make me smile, no matter what mood I am in. It is sunshine in musical form, it is summer with notes, it is a fantastic song that will have crowds jumping in unison and should make the world a happier place by just existing.
04 - In A Better Place
Instead of trying to up the ante at this point, Mew has let the melancholy flow over and 'In A Better Place' takes you on a sad journey. It feels like there has been a loss that is still being computed and nothing is stable on this song, but there is still hope for better times to come. Let's be honest, any song that had to follow 'Candy Pieces All Smeared Out' is going to have a lot to live up to, but it does not attempt to top that song, it is a different type of tune and it is a pause/respite to let you gain back your senses and for the band to let things build again.
05 - Ay Ay Ay
Taking the album down a darker, heavier turning, 'Ay Ay Ay' burdens the listener with a sense of sorrow and fear to a certain extent. The sunshine of earlier songs has dissipated like fog rising in the morning, replaced with a weary vision of mistrusted and sorrow. It is a dark number on this record, not one that is designed for comfort, but sometimes the sunshine must fade and this song shows another interesting facet of Mew. The bass is louder, the synth more pronounced, the vocals has sadness at their heart and it all comes together in a bitter pill that creates a powerful statement.
06 - Learn Our Crystals
'Learn Our Crystals' starts off with a gentle melody that sounds as if hope is wounded, but not faded and the lyrics are a mass of contradictions and double meanings as hope and failure are noted in the same sentences. The music continues along that similar route as it goes from the gentle beginning to joyful explosion of pop to post pop synth drama and then ends with a loop of vocals into the fading echo of an amplifier. It feels like three songs have been meshed into one, with impressive results and leaves the listener with a sense of confusion, joy and (ironically) hope.
07 - Twist Quest
‘Twist Quest’ has a feeling of night about it, dusk has just past and the world is getting ready to have a party in the dark around an open fire. The lyrics though, they are something completely different once again. It sounds like a memory of a fight, there is disappointment and remorse to the words, a mixture of fear and regret to each word. It is the contradiction to the sound that drives these words home, makes it an enigmatic number that is a key component of their sound. However, it is not one of my favourite songs on the album, it is a good song, but there are better numbers on this album.
08 - Shoulders
The heavy burden of depression can weigh heavy on people, making them unable to do anything other than hope that the demons soon leave you in peace. Musically this is very slow, atmospheric droning keyboards and it feels longer than the sub three minutes that it is in the world. But it is an effective track, the words are compelling and it perks my interest by being down right miserable and honest about how depression can make everything feel so awful – a brave song.
09 - 85 Videos
I have to say ’85 Videos’ is a track that I have struggled with a lot, but I cannot place my finger on what it is that I cannot settle on. The music is good, the lyrics are mysterious as ever, but it just passes me by each time I listen to it. It is a shame, but sometimes this happens – next song.
10 - Zanzibar
The penultimate song ‘Zanzibar’ is another moody song, one that is a short pause and build to the finale of the album. It is synth focused, full of regret and vulnerability with a hint of hunger. It is a beautiful, majestic number this is short and poignant in nature that could have been stretched out a little bit more, but sometimes it is best to leave a lasting impression in a short period of time.
11 - Carry Me to Safety
A song about wanting to come home, to return to safety and the need for sanctuary, it is an ever-present need for the human condition. Musically it is another emotive piece that aims to end this album on a dramatic moment with some glorious indie-pop sounds, strings over the music and a passionate vocal display. It achieves this, it certainly has drama and it is a well-played song, but I am not too sure about ending the album on this song. It feels like it is a building to something else. Maybe the extra tracks on the Japanese version would have added more to this. But it is still a good number, make no mistake about that.
Oh my god, Mew - where have you been all of my life! A band that is both sadness and joy in equal measure and it contains the best song of 2017 (I really cannot see 'Candy Pieces All Smeared Out' being topped this year). Overall, this album is a summer's album, one which will be played in the sun and people will listen to it in winter to bring the feeling of warmer back to their spirits. It is also such a contradiction, an enigmatic raven that tells two tales with the same words in the same song. It can have the happiest music, full of sunshine and laughter and it will also have the most miserable lyrics you can imagine, but then they will change it around on the next song. It makes everything open to interpretation, but it also adds another layer of complexity to this wonderful album. Now, it is not a perfect record for me as the pacing is a little off and it does tail off towards the end, but it is an impressive record none the less and I will now have to go through the Mew back catalogue. But, 'Candy Pieces All Smeared Out' what a song!
8 out of ten -Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart
Top track - Candy Pieces All Smeared Out
You can visit the Mew website here, where there are links to purchase Visuals from Mew themselves.You can purchase one of the versions of Visuals on Amazon here.
You can follow the activities of Mew on Facebook here.
You can stream Visuals on Spotify here.
You can stream Visuals on Deezer here.
You can stream Visuals on Tidal here.
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