12 May 2009

jamming: mewithoutYou- 'It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All A Dream! It's Alright"

01) every thought a Thought of You
02) a Stick, Carrot & String
03) the Angel of Death came to David's Room
04) Goodbye, I!

05) the Fox, the Crow and the Cookie
06) bullet to Binary (pt. Two)
07) Timothy Hay

08) Fig with a Bellyache

09) Cattail Down

10) the King Beetle on a Coconut Estate

11) Allah, Allah, Allah

The album title is pretty indicative of the confusing, exciting, unpredictable, gorgeous mess mewithoutYou releases next Tuesday. It has all the zany trappings of one of Sufjan Steven's concerts (if Stevens drafted John Donne, Saint Francis, Wendell Berry, Conor Oberst and the Decemberists to play in the band). While much to my friends AJ & Nick's chagrines, this disc is not nearly as hard as A-->B or Catch for Us the Foxes (both still amazing). Fine by me though!

This set seems to pick up where "Sweater Poorly Knit' left us, using fiddles, acoustics, sing-song choruses, harmonies, trumpets and banjos to do the heavy lifting Aaron's screeching beat-poetry used to do. The result is a beautifully crafted collection that employs animals (much in the vein of "A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains"), biblical midrash (Stick, Carrot, String; David), agrarian imagery, and outright mysticism. Play this one often, listen carefully, imagine along, see yourself in the narratives, be challenged by the simplicity and playfulness of such weighty, scandalous, and surprising themes.

In short, this album represents mewithoutYou at their most accessible. It also represents a minority in Christ-informed music: both in content and in style. That said (and without trying to sound too overly dramatic or pretentious), mewithoutYou needs to be seriously considered by Christ-followers who love music. Their art acts a kind of sign, prophetic and altogether separate and disinterested, from any sort Nashville (or otherwise) industry. Christian artists may do well to look to folks like these guys in the same way the Church does well to look to, self-evaluate, engage, and enjoy monastic communities and missionaries. It would be naive to try to overhaul CCM music to look and sound more like the eccentricities of the few, but it would be a shame to overlook or alienate a minority with a majority gift and voice in a crucial time.

"there's a sign on the barn in the cabbage town, when the rain picks up and the sun goes down, 'sinners come inside with no money come and buy.' no clever talk and nor gift to bring requires our lowly and lovely king. come ye empty handed you don't need anything!"

Well done.

Footnote: I have neither words nor explanation for "Fig With A Bellyache". If it is distracting, uncheck the little check box in iTunes and it will no longer be an issue. I don't know?!

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