Different is Not Always Bad… I Guess



Despite my complaints that the current version of mewithoutYou is not the same band I fell for several years ago, I can’t deny that their new album is a solid one. If I take an objective listen to It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All A Dream! It’s Alright, discounting any previous knowledge of the band or their past releases, it is undoubtedly an intriguing album with a unique sound, interesting and obscure lyrics, and an uplifting message. At the end of the day, for the fellows in mewithoutYou, I guess that’s what matters.

It’s All Crazy! is a quirky pop-folk-rock album with scattered influences and a sound that grows on you. Aaron Weiss’s vocals are one of the quirky elements in their sound. Weiss’s past style of yelling/talking over the music is all but gone, making brief appearances (“Bullet to Binary Pt. Two”). His vocal stylings are now more reminiscent of Gordon Gano of folk-punk pioneers the Violent Femmes and Joseph Whiteford of Harley Poe (and formerly of mewithoutYou’s T&N label mates Calibretto). The backing vocals of the other members of the band are somewhat choir-like at times, adding a certain quality that invokes other eccentric acts like The Polyphonic Spree.

Lyrically, the album is said to be largely based upon the teachings of Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Sufi mystic. Before learning of this, I (like most non-Muslim Americans) had never heard of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, but this release has certainly peaked my interest with songs based on his parables (“The Fox, the Crow and the Cookie”) and finding God in everything (“Allah, Allah, Allah”). As the Weiss brothers grew up in a Sufi household in Philadelphia, where the mystic lived while in the United States, it is not surprising that Bawa Muhaiyaddeen would be an inspiration for Aaron’s lyrics. In understanding the principle teachings of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen are of peace and unity, it makes complete sense that now would be the time for Weiss and company to share his teachings with the world.

The music on the quirky album seems to take a lot more influence from Bob Dylan, late Beatles work, and the Sufjan Stevens crowd than from previous influences like Fugazi or The Refused. In fact, if you don’t know anything about the band’s earlier recordings, you’d never guess that these bands were at one time very prominent influences in their sound. Wikipedia references Neutral Milk Hotel as an influence, Christianity Today likens their sound to Danielson Famile, Anathallo, and Bright Eyes, and Absolute Punk references the Sgt. Pepper vibe of “Allah, Allah, Allah”. Far cry from their punk and hardcore roots, huh? Damn right, but I can’t deny that it grows on the listener, even a reluctant listener like myself.

Fan of quirky folk music? Then, this will be up your alley. Fan of earlier mewithoutYou? Give it a try… you may find out, like me, that it’s not as bad as you had first thought. And while you’re at it, check out this free download of a great acoustic cover of my favorite mewithoutYou song (click here to download “Flamethrower” by Peter James).


~ by thepaintedman on June 4, 2009.

One Response to “Different is Not Always Bad… I Guess”

  1. i just ate a whole pint of blueberries, two at a time, i had to stop to consciously breathe a couple times, i can’t be trusted, time to exercise and puke them all up.
    Bring on the alcamahol!

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