If truth be told, I wasnt a huge fan of Mew when i first heard them. Now I realise that in many peoples eyes this should probably forbid for me from reviewing their latest album, and quite possibly from being engaged in any Nordic Music Review activity at all, but please forgive me. I think I was left disappointed a number of years back after seeing a recommendation on a forum belonging to ‘the Greatest Band of All Time’ that they were ‘Cardiacs Alike’, and I immediately ordered ‘And the Glass Handed Kites’, but was left somewhat underwhelmed. However I came back to it a couple of years later, and actually now regard it as one of my favourite albums.
Their last Album, the catchily entitled ‘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‘ was released almost 6 years ago, and the latest release ‘+ -‘ is now out. There is no doubt that ‘+ -‘ is a very distinctly ‘Mew’ album, and they do seem to be a band that does exactly what they want to do, irrespective of what other bands and artists might be doing at any given time. In the past many music publications roundly ignored and dismissed bands with overly Progressive influences, but thankfully Mew seem to have willfully ignored all of that and have stuck to their guns.
‘+ -‘ opens with ‘Satellites’, a harp, strings and the unique vocals of Jonas Bjerre, it feels like a triumphant return – its big, bold and full of confidence, with a stadium Synth Pop sound. It’s probably less ‘way out’ (or less interesting, depending on your point of view) than some of their earlier material, less unfathomable time signatures, but its still has its own identity. ‘The Night Believer’ is a really strong track, fairly conventional in its format, with big tunes. And my favourite tracks come together later in the album, the 6 minute long thumping ‘My Complications’, with its big guitars and the mellow thoughtful ‘Water Slides’.
Whilst their previous release ‘No more Stories…’ was sometimes inspired but also occasionally missed the mark. ‘+ -‘ doesn’t have anywhere near those contradictions, its a more straight forward Mew release. Its certainly taken me a good few listens before I’ve got to like it, but there’s enough in there to keep it interesting with around 6 strong tracks - although I cant deny I also miss some of the extravagance, and the more outrageous progressive influences.
Mew fans I think will still love it, and this could be a good introduction to Mew if you haven’t come across them before – alternatively get straight to their live UK shows which start this Sunday (16th May) at the Great Escape in Brighton and arrive in Manchester on May 19th.
Nordic Music Review 7.5 / 10