Starting with some kind of crazy racket of an instrumental track, Mew’s second album kicks off sounding like some pretentious The Cooper Temple Clause-esque noise-makers. Where’s the delicacy of She Came Home For Christmas? This sounds more like a big hairy dude with tattoos than an pale blond boy from Denmark. But it seems that’s just to scare off the non-believers, and the beauty (albeit a fairly menacing and monstrous beauty) steps to the forefront as soon as Jonas opens his mouth six seconds in to track two, Chinaberry Tree.
If the critics are to be believed, Mew must be superhuman musical gods. If the record buying public are to be believed Mew actually aren’t very important or interesting at all, because despite the hype they largely fail to make any kind of record-shifting impact on the UK. This album verges on the same orchestral grandeur of the Arcade Fire‘s debut album, but they just don’t have that je ne sais quoi that makes everybody want to be in on the action.
Perhaps they just sound too far detached from reality to be reachable by the masses, like certain comedians – hilarious to their select group of fans, but not really making anyone else laugh. The Zookeeper’s Boy sounds like it simply must be a joke, with lyrics such as, “if there’s a glitch, you’re an ostrich” and “with meringue coloured hair”; But the layered spacey vocal arrangements and grumbling guitar disagree. They mean business, and that’s confusing.
Maybe it’s godlike genius. Maybe Jonas’ artificially high vocals are angelic, unique and special. Maybe their lyrics are full of clever metaphors other bands just aren’t smart enough to think up. Maybe they are pioneering musical revolutionaries. Or maybe they’re the pinnacle of indie pretension, with an irritating singer, silly lyrics and self-indulgent proggish music.
Instinct draws us towards the first option, although it seems likely that it’ll take many repeat listens for this album to really reveal its full potential and if you’re looking for a record that’ll make you smile, this is certainly not it. In fact, it’s a pretty emotionally draining listen.
And The Glass Handed Kites is probably a peculiar reclusive masterpiece: but maybe not. It’s left us bewildered and feeling hollow, like it stole a little part of our soul. Maybe it’s magical or maybe we’ve been tricked. Perhaps we’re just scared of it’s greatness. Can we get back to you on that one?