Danish quartet and creators of all things genre-bending Mew are back after a 6 year silence with their 6th album, + - (a welcome title after the exhausting 2009 LP-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).
+ - is a whole lot to take in then pull apart. There should almost be a disclaimer on the front that reads “DON’T THINK-JUST ENJOY”. It also feels like + - cannot be simply listened to track by track but rather as a whole piece. Not to say each song does not completely captivate the listener or deserve individual merit, it’s more a matter of there being so much grandiose that a 5 minute track does not do Mew’s work justice.
The genre penned by the band for their unique sound is often “indie-stadium” or “art prog” and with that in mind + - has been a surprise to all fans as the songs seem much more accessible and dare I say, “pop-ish”. In no way does this mean things have been simplified, if anything you can almost hear 6 years worth of meticulous planning and writing in the intricate soundscapes. Glistening vocals from singer Jonas Bjerre stamp each track with the Mew “sound” as it were for any fan would recognise Bjerre’s fragile yet powerful voice a mile off. The unworldly power of his falsetto has often fought (however successfully) against Mew’s angst ridden blend of post and prog-rock but with + - you get the feeling that the band have finally begun to move as one. It’s also worth mentioning that original bass player Johan Wohlert is back after leaving the band to raise a family. His welcome return really drives home the notion that + - is the product of a band that have transcended individual thinking and are creating music as one. Using the word “shimmering” to describe this new blend of grand prog-pop might sound a little bizarre but then again, there is nothing standard about this album.
There are also two noteworthy cameos on the album - one being Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack adding his signature sound to My Complications which he both played on and co-wrote. His playing is immediately recognisable without even knowing beforehand. It hits you like a big smack in the face and might be the only thing on the album that feels kind of out of place to me, like it’s humanising an otherwise non-human sound.
The second cameo is made by New Zealand songstress and Interns’ sweetheart Kimbra who duets with Bjerre on The Night Believer. Kimbra has openly sung her praises of Mew over the years and often refers to them when talking about major influences to her music. It seems to be a match made in heaven as both vocalists blend together in a heart-achingly beautiful manner.
With the acceptance of much more symphonic and experimental pop in the current commercial market, the big question here is, is there hope for chart success? Not that one could imagine the band giving a flying fuck about topping charts but perhaps a bit of commercial recognition could lead to a 2015 tour that would include our humble shores. One thing that is certain is that + - will garner plenty of praise from critics and musicians alike. Mew once again have catapulted themselves out of the stratosphere and onto a far away planet where bands like Sigur Ros and M83 also like to hang out.
+ - is best devoured in one extensive single sitting. There are soaring vocals and heart-bursting happiness a plenty. The melodies are as unpredictable as the backbeats and the entire album is rounded off with a 7-minute beauty entitled, Cross The River On Your Own that is so mind shattering in its melancholic beauty that you might actually shed a few tears on this rainy afternoon.
In a year where the best albums of the year list is already looking pretty full, there is space for Mew's comeback because it's daring, inventive and yet completely accessible.