By Andrew Willoughby
Eighteen years since the release of their debut EP, Philadelphia post-hardcore band mewithoutYou released two companion pieces, which serve to highlight how the band has evolved over nearly two decades.
Over the summer, a press release announced the “aggressive and chaotic full-length and a conversely pensive and melancholy EP” – “[Untitled]” and “[untitled]” respectively.
Each project stands on its own and pursues dramatically different goals. However, the EP shines as the superior of the pair as its sonic concept is more consistent than its full-length sibling.
The opener to the EP, “Bethlehem, WV,” offers a beautiful combination of acoustic and electric guitars, which build up to an explosive, yet somehow tame, crescendo.
One of “[untitled]’s” standout tracks, “Dirty Air,” kicks off with a bluesy bassline, which builds into an atmospheric chorus of reverberated guitars and frontman Aaron Weiss’ nasally voice singing, “Ce n’est pas une chanson sur une peinture d’une pipe,” translated to, “This is not a song about a painting of a pipe,” a surrealist reference to René Magritte’s surrealist painting, “The Treachery of Images.”
The EP’s acoustic “Winter Solstice (alt. version)” – the electric version appears on the LP – is one of the best tracks on either project. The tubular and sleigh bells and acoustic guitar complement the song’s concept of using the story of Noah to describe Weiss’ mental state as he sings, “Through the eyes of machines viewed immaculate scenes / That had already passed me by / All the stars on the ground, Noah’s ark in the clouds / Set sail in the flood of my mind.” The electric guitar of the album version doesn’t pair as well with the song’s topic.
Both the EP and LP alike are not only filled with allusions to Christianity, but also to Islam, Judaism, spirituality, literature, and pop culture. As a doctor of philosophy and having taught as an adjunct professor at Temple University, Weiss’ lyrics have always been the highlight of any mewithoutYou project.
The full-length sounds drastically different than the EP, as it opens with their heaviest and loudest track since 2002’s “[A→B] Life” as Weiss screams, “Ploughshares gone swords, / we were the scourge of the earth / Offerings unpoured, unliturgical drink / It’d be a pearl of a time now for a virgin birth.” It’s exciting to hear mewithoutYou return to a sound they haven’t fully explored in over 15 years.
However, the rest of the album doesn’t nearly deliver what was promised during its announcement.
Instead, what we get is reminiscent of the band’s previous record “Pale Horses,” with a few tracks that build up to climaxes that are indeed “aggressive and chaotic.”
The endings to songs such as “Another Head for Hydra,” “Tortoises all the Way Down,” “Wendy & Betsy,” and “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” serve as high points for the entire album.
This is what the entirety of “[Untitled]” should have sounded like.
Aside from two or three duds on the tracklist, the album is great for what it is. I just can’t help but be slightly disappointed that it’s not exactly what the band promised it would be.
EP – A
LP – B
The EP in this double release shines as the superior as it adheres to its concept. The LP,
unfortunately, doesn’t know what it wants to be.