Music Review: Mew – No More Stories (2009)

Every so often you come across a band about which every aspect of their sound and aesthetic scream out, “We are going to be the biggest band in the world!”, but then somehow go relatively unnoticed.  Mew is exactly that band, and it’s the sheer strength of their grandiose arrangements that have doomed them to take the backseat to the electro-folk stylings of the Animal Collectives and Grizzly Bears of the world who have been deemed the torch-bearers of modern music by critics and fans alike.  Despite specializing in a sound that is looked down upon or at best ignored by indie fans, and despite failing to break into a market that is currently embracing the likes of Muse and The Killers, Mew continue on with their mission of delivering transcendent melodies and extraterrestrial riffs, determined to make as many fall in love as will give their music a chance.

Those familiar with Frengers or And the Glass Handed Kites will have a pretty good idea of what to expect going into No More Stories.  Mew have indeed returned, and although they are now minus one bassist, they have not lost their trademark swoon.  The album will likely make people think of both Frengers and Kites at different points; Frengers during the stretch from “Hawaii” to “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy”, and Kites on the progged out “Intrducing Palace Players” or the 7 minute centerpiece “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds”.  However, if the album has any fault, it’s that it lacks a standout track that the previous two albums featured; there’s no “Comforting Sounds” or “Zookeeper’s Boy” to be found here, but on the other hand there are fewer missteps than ever before.

What distinguishes No More Stories from the rest of Mew’s catalog is their exploration of texture; never before have they played with robotic beats as they do on “Tricks”, pulled it back with such swagger as they do on “Silas the Magic Car”, or for that matter, played vocals backwards (and maybe forwards as well?  I’m still baffled as to how they synchronized this song) as they do on album opener “New Terrain”.  The entire album is truly, as cheesy at sounds, a musical journey.  Mew is here to lead you by the hand through a musical landscape featuring a wider variety of moods and textures than they’ve ever explored, melodic crescendos that only Mew could have reached (well… maybe Sigur Ros), and a generally transcendent aesthetic that will be ringing in your ears for months to come.

Had they been born into a more accepting culture, Mew would likely occupy both the year end lists and the dreams of every young girl alive.  As it stands now though, they have for me cemented their position among the decade’s essential artists by now delivering three distinct and nearly inscrutable albums in a row, a feat achieved by only the most masterful in the industry.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Highlights: Introducing Palace Players, Repeaterbeater, Silas the Magic Car, Cartoons and Macramé Wounds

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