The first time I heard mewithoutYou was around 2005 when I found myself drifting toward music that was more challenging than what I was currently listening to. A friend from college was a great source for this, as he sent me music from artists such as The Mars Volta, Xiu Xiu and also mewithoutYou. The latter, in his pitch, he gave me the disclaimer that they were Christian, which wasn't a problem for me because I happen to share that faith. I know that can scare some off. That being said, I thought that it sounded like obnoxious noise and didn't pursue it much more than that. But then, it didn't take long before I felt the need to listen back to their songs and suddenly began to find a connection to what kind of rock they made. It was certainly unusual, particularly the singing style, but the uncompromising honesty was hard to ignore and something to admire. Through time this admiration would develop into me becoming a very loyal fan of their work.
Some time ago I was planning on reviewing their fourth album It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright but it wound up being put on the back burner for so long that they released a fifth album. I thought to review that, but found as I started writing it, I began discussing in great detail where the band had been before that musically. The review wasn't looking like a review of that album and I was several paragraphs is. Their albums, to some extent or another, link up, sharing track names or just following certain thematic ideas so I thought that perhaps I should touch on all five of their full length albums, as their debut was just over ten years ago. It might be fun for you to journey through their progression with me because they have taken some bold and beautiful leaps in their career. So, if you're a mewithoutYou fan, this might be a delight for you. If you are not a fan, feel free to listen to these albums as we go and maybe you'll become one.
[A→B] Life is a brave debut album, laying all the cards on the table right away. It opens with a creepy science fiction ambiance, which starts to gather more rock elements until it explodes into the emotional rock sound of “Bullets To Binary,” which has singer Aaron Weiss shouting with a visceral emotional punch. The songs link together, so that they flow seamlessly from one hard rock tune into another. The next few songs carry the same feel and might sound very similar to the untrained ear. Basically, if you differentiate songs based on their vocal melodies alone, you will likely get lost on the album. The songs do actually have a distinct identity from one another, though it isn't obvious initially.
One of the songs that I was sent when I was first being introduced to mewithoutYou was “Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt” which is one of the most distinct tracks on the album. It opens very slowly, allowing for some calm within the abrasiveness of the overall album. But it does build into something quite dramatic. Weiss' vocals emerge from the calm, but remain in the background, and the song takes a very dark turn, spiralling into an emotional chaos. It's a really potent piece, but extremely effective. It is followed by the partial title track and short transitional piece “(A),” which along with “(B)” later on in the album, give a more contemplative electronic sound which contrasts the hard rock in crucial moments.
“Gentlemen” is another highlight off the album, with the most focus on Weiss' vocals. This one is another song that piqued my interest simply for that reason. It was the song that helped show me what kind of music they make, and more importantly, why. The shouting poetic vocal style adds the proper amount of pungency to the words and add the emotional strength necessary to validate their subject matter. These songs are confessions and the honest inner struggles and should be given a certain amount of emotional immediacy and weight. It gets across very well. It's very loud and abrasive to someone who isn't expecting it, but it doesn't dance around the angst or make it palatable. Pain shouldn't be easy to stomach.
After this point in the album the songs remain very good, but don't maintain the same strength as most of the first two thirds. Truthfully, it does get to be a bit draining through the final stretch. Though it finishes with a hidden track, an acoustic version of “I Never Said I Was Brave,” sang by bassist Daniel Pishock which is something a little different, but enjoyable. The album is very strong and accomplishes what it sets out to do, giving mewithoutYou a very unique sound that resonates with the listener well after listening to it. [A→B] Life isn't always as diverse as I would like, but they prove themselves to be capable song writers who are at times painfully earnest, which is something that can be lacking from not just pop acts, but many rock acts also. I, for one, appreciate that they're willing to trust their listeners with their unfiltered thoughts. This may not be easy listening for a calm day, but if you're willing to listen to some abrasive music with insight and intelligence, you may want to take on the challenge of [A→B] Life.