And the Glass Handed Kites


    Despite the band’s stunning 2003 release, Frengers, Mew has remained almost completely ignored in the United States. Only a small group of Americans are forking over the twenty dollars or more for imported Mew records, which is especially surprising because Mew is amongst a select number of groups (Sigur Rós, the Cooper Temple Clause, Radiohead, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine) that continue to push back (or have pushed back) limitations with their manipulations of music in original and compelling ways.


    And 2005’s And the Glass Handed Kites shows Mew as a band that hasn’t found any boundaries its members couldn’t transcend.


    Musically, few bands come close to Mew’s sound. The beautifully intertwined guitars revolve around constantly changing time signatures. Jonas Bjerre has complete control over his intimidating vocal range (which could put a number of women to shame). The drums and bass solidify the impact of Mew’s musical contributions by filling the lower ranges, adding power by providing the hardest hits to the darkest sections. They move softly and deftly in the background of the sweeping, angelic heights to which the guitars, keyboards and Bjerre’s voice often soar — his voice usually accompanied by single keyboards or xylophone notes following his vocal melody (or vice versa), a trademark of Mew’s sound.


    Still, the band never gets entangled in Bjerre’s falsetto or weighed down by elongated guitar/keyboard lines. The sinuous melodies that flow through And the Glass Handed Kites effortlessly rearrange themselves, from the softly delicate arrangements on “Special” or “The Zookeeper’s Boy” to the dark and ominous themes explored in “Apocalypso.” Sometimes the rearrangement happens within one song without losing the focus of the piece.


    The album’s first twelve songs all flow together, the transitions almost unnoticeable. It’s one of the most intriguing aspects of this record. A number of bands have pulled off transitions like this for two or three songs, but twelve? It’s as though the songs were different acts of the same play, similar themes and characters set against different musical backgrounds. The darkly instrumental “Circuitry of the Wolf” transfers into the elusive and inviting “Chinaberry Tree,” which builds into the driving and powerful “Why Are You Looking Grave?” The latter is our first taste of J. Mascis’s involvement in the record. Mascis, of Dinosaur Jr. and more recently Witch, is featured on two of the album’s most powerful songs: “Why Are You Looking Grave?” and “An Envoy to the Open Fields.” His contribution is wonderful, offsetting Bjerre’s unrestrained, fluid vocals.


    Because they have avoided being pigeonholed, the members of Mew have allowed themselves a freedom and range that many bands only wish for. The members take pop melodies (think South and Delays) and stretch them around complex and layered structures (think Mogwai and Sigur Rós) all without causing the songs to feel convoluted or forced beyond their capacity.


    Mew has toured with a diverse palate of bands, including R.E.M. and the Cooper Temple Clause, and the band is slated to tour with Bloc Party in the United States in July. Which makes now the perfect time to check out Mew, before all of your friends get into the band after the Bloc Party tour. You’ll definitely get a lot less “scene points” then. Just looking out for you.



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    Mew website

    BMG Europe website

    “Apocolypso” stream