After a four-year absence, acclaimed Danes Mew return with their fifth album. In an act of pretension unseen since Fiona Apple’s When The Pawn album, they’ve named it after a lyric from an album track, in this case Hawaii Dream.
So, to give their album its full title: “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.” Despite that piece of ridiculousness, it’s a more accessible venture than their previous efforts. Yet it still suffers from some of the difficulties that the band have encountered in the past.
While fellow Danish export Alphabeat have been carving up the charts with their radio-friendly brand of throwaway pop, Mew, preferring an experimental take on their creative output, offer something entirely different.
As if to demonstrate this from the outset, New Terrain opens with the demonic, Twin Peaksy swirl that can only mean one thing: it’s a backwards song. Indeed, apparently the song can be played backwards to reinvent itself, presumably with lyrics in a real, existing language. It’s ultimately a novelty and, if the band want to try these things out and play around with sounds, then they need to be careful as it’s the kind of trick that doesn’t always add anything positive to the listening experience. In this case, as an introduction, playing it forwards surprisingly works fine. Unfortunately conventional MP3 players don’t have the function we need, so we’ve not been able to test out how well it works in reverse.
That peculiarity aside, the first song proper is Introducing Palace Players and it’s no surprise that it was the first single to be released. It has a strength of vision underpinned with solid crunching guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rapture album. Followed by what should be the forthcoming two singles, the breezy pop of Beach and the urgency of Repeaterbeater, the album starts incredibly strongly and with an immediacy that has been lacking in their previous work.
But after that the pace nosedives. Flailing around for over seven minutes on the shoegazey Cartoons And Macram� Wounds, the band bring the listener into a series of lavish overblown epics which fight with each other for album centrepiece status. While that shouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, it displaces attention and the effect of the songs is diluted.
Hawaii stands out as the pick of the bunch, falling somewhere between The Flaming Lips and Sufjan Stevens, but with it, Vaccine and Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy each weighing in at over 5 minutes, it gets a bit much, with little to provide light relief.
The album suffers from so many of the same issues that we found with previous release And The Glass Handed Kites. It’s hard to know where you stand with it. There are moments where the listener is engulfed in it all, but others when it feels cold and detached. Sometimes it feels like it’s an album that would just take a few more listens, but at others it feels like time to give up hope that it will just fall into place.
As before, Mew’s new work might just be a masterpiece; but then it might not be. It certainly holds lofty ambitions, but it doesn’t connect as much as it could.