Posts Tagged ‘ten stories’

h1

Run on, Rabbit, Run! mewithoutYou master a circus concept

June 5, 2012

I reckon it’s generally accepted concept albums are a dangerous venture. The story needs to be one which can be reasonably told by a set of 11-or-so tracks, then the execution needs to be perfect. The concept itself needs to be ever-so-slightly hidden from view so as not to be crude but present enough to be worth doing in the first place. It is by no means easy or even necessary.

As far as storytelling goes, mewithoutYou have nailed it several times in individual songs  – their allusions to bible tales and the goings on of various animals seem to be their favourite topics – but this is this is the first time they’ve tried it throughout an album. And they’ve only gone and bloody done it.

Critics of the Pennsylvanian five-piece will point to their last album, It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, It’s All A Dream, It’s Alright, as the moment the band relinquished their rage-filled, raw, damn-near apocalyptic, semi-religious spoken word. Post-hardcore to some. Furious volume to others. To some degree, those critics are right. Only occasionally in their last album can the distain and anger of A–B Life be heard – and I think it’s mainly when Aaron Weiss is singing about tomatoes – and the music certainly mellowed too. In their new offering, Ten Stories, the musical direction is midway between It’s All Crazy and Brother, Sister – in my view, the best place it can be. The guitars return much closer to the punchy riffs kicked along by purposeful drums than the etherial and arguably quirky melodies of before. More importantly, the anger and urgency has returned. It has returned to the structure of a beautiful tale of a circus train crash.

Ten Stories follows the tales (no pun…) of various animals – a rabbit, a fox, a bear, an elephant and some others – as they escape the flaming wreckage of this circus train crashed on a cold night in February, 1878. Weiss’s ability to paint such a vivid picture is incredible. Right from the off (‘February, 1878’), we hear the rabbit’s panting sprint from the nets of the policeman, the tiger’s hesitance and the elephant’s concerns over his age and physical strength to get away. Throughout, Weiss switches from his tuneful drawl to the spitting shouts which gave mewithoutYou their unique sound several albums ago.

Even on the first listen the characterisation of the animals can be picked up. The elephant, who charges the animal car to release them immediately after the crash, is then too old to escape and is caught. Come track five, ‘Elephant in the Dock’, the jurors in a courthouse call for him to be hung. These are stories you wouldn’t find in many albums. Arguably, they would not work in many other albums, but herein lies Weiss’s and the rest of the band’s ability to construct such a believable, tangible piece of storytelling. Like an over-emotive film  trailer, the tone of music provides the perfect backdrop to the vocals – whether cracking with fear or inaudible with power. The intricate imagery of the lyrics is translated almost faultlessly through each song.

The combination of the artwork, the stories, a return to the more forceful music and an increase in urgency in the vocals combines to make Ten Stories mewithoutYou’s most accomplished and well-rounded album. I’ve only had the cd a few days but already am picking out different notes of brilliance unheard on first listen and I am sure this novel will eventually go down as one of my favourite works.