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October 2014
Mumblr
"Full Of Snakes
"
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The major takeaway for Mumblr’s new album Full Of Snakes (Fleeting Youth Records) is that it really takes balls to write songs that truly say nothing. As counter intuitive as it may sound, there really is something admirable in using music to not really express all that much. Any jerk with a voice and a few chords can say a whole lot about how their ex is horrible; what really matters is how much of that content is actually worth hearing. And brother, Mumblr has found a way to make saying nothing profound.

On the surface, the album initially sounds like some sort of early 2000’s generic pop-punk; the first song “Got It” opens with that familiar sense of vague, safe anger. It’s very “high school” reminiscent, right off the bat, with lines like “I got it if you want it” and “I’ll invite you to my room.” But as the song closes and we drift into “Sober,” the tone very gradually starts to feel off. It starts to feel a bit weirder, with this sense of reckless abandon that you only hear in a Violent Femmes song. And it’s not that one is true, and the others is not; this album is walking a razor’s edge between the most self-aware of indie post-punk and the obliviousness of adolescent guilty pleasures.

And while that may sound like a chaotic mess, the seventeen-track full-length really is the having-and-eating of one's cake. We get the indulgence of grandiose guitar riffs and over the top shrieks, but with just enough originality in the composition to give it a sense of being slick and even avant-garde. Don’t let the outward sense of crazy abandon fool you - this thing is airtight. And a lot of that can be chalked up to Nick Morrison’s vocals; he brings a real sense of cleverness to the whole thing, in no small part to the fact that he can turn his voice on a dime.

One endlessly fascinating reoccurring theme is the use of repetition in their lyrics, with phrases like the aforementioned “I got it” and “someone’s been sitting in my chair” echoed over and over again, beyond the point of simple parody. It’s that old artistic trope of repeating something until it becomes meaninglessly applied to lyrics, and it’s interesting to hear expressions of youthful angst to become so alien and meaningless.

They take these universal touchstones of adolescences, including the use of “shock” lyrics such as “if God is a woman I’m going to hell” and gleefully drive them into the ground while enjoying the ride. It’s fun, it’s cool, and will leave you thinking more than any other post-punk album in months. And it does so while still being a genuinely fun throwback to a sort of music that you don’t really hear in earnest these days. - Daniel Ludwig

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Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

Album Review: Ten Stories - mewithoutYou

One of the more compelling narratives mewithoutYou’s career has lent itself to is the band’s quest to find solace in its faith. At first, they seemed utterly lost in it; their first two records, [A-->B] Life and Catch for us the Foxes, are feverish, frantic post-hardcore albums characterized by heavily distorted guitars and Aaron Weiss’s panicked poetry on the conflict of faith in a secular world. They revisited this conflict on Brother, Sister, but with a sense of triumph deftly characterized in its final lyric: “I do not exist, only You exist.” Still, this surrender that made Brother, Sister a record of cathartic victory swallowed It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright. The very title of their fourth LP suggests the born-again zealotry that defines it. Drawing inspiration not from conflict but from joy and folk tales, the post-hardcore sound totally eschewed in favor of Jeff Mangum-esque storytelling and vocalizing. It’s All Crazy! was a hugely divisive record, and more importantly, one that seemed to mark the end of an arc - mewithoutYou were no longer mewithoutYou as we knew them.

Which brings us to Ten Stories, and also begs the question: What will mewithoutYou do having now escaped this narrative that has defined the band for their entire career? Nothing too crazy - Ten Stories finds them as they always have been, playing upon their past without bowing to it, the result being a record that sounds both distinctly theirs and unlike anything they’ve done before. The opener, “February 1878,” is a riff on one of the classics in the band’s back catalog, “January 1979,” but though mewithoutYou have given specific songs sequels before, “February 1878” isn’t a sequel. It has verses with Weiss’s once-prominent wild-sermon delivery, but its riff is lighter; its chorus more demure. “January 1979” details a car crash Weiss witnessed, and the apathy he couldn’t escape from feeling. “February 1878” is about an elephant in a circus train. The link between them is analogous to how Ten Stories fits into mewithoutYou’s catalog. The sound on Ten Stories bears traces of mewithoutYou’s more aggressive roots but is too light to truly align with that phase in their career. At the same time, it’s also nowhere near as insistently folksy as It’s All Crazy! What we have is a wedding between the two eras, a little rugged, but also a little inspiring as Weiss’s intricate lyricism is brought out not over chugging rock or campfire songs but gentle, mostly straightforward indie rock.

And about those lyrics: Ten Stories is what it says it is, a collection of fables populated by animals and Weiss avatars, and though the stories themselves are confusing to make sense of without the aid of liner notes, they’re too well-orchestrated and articulated to glaze over. There’s a dense record here you can make sense of with a little extracurricular effort, but there’s also a powerful one you can simply hear and get. Exemplified in the cyclical closer “All Circles,” Ten Stories is a record whose strength lies in its catchiness. Weiss sings of many things on Ten Stories, but he signs off with one triumphant realization: “All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, and only in their leaving can they ever come back round.” It’s a simple message that resounds over the preceding record and is almost too explicit to not apply to the band itself. As mewithoutYou have entered a new phase in their career, “All Circles” reminds us that though they may have arrived at one answer in their journey, they aren’t done searching. And though Ten Stories is packed with worthy additions to mewithoutYou’s catalog (particularly on its wilder second half), Ten Stories is defined by the future it promises. Itmay not be as drop-your-jaw stunning as Brother, Sister or [A-- >B] Life, but it is good - very good, actually. Enough to make you believe that with this new sound, they can create something of that caliber again. Until then, enjoy Ten Stories for what it is. It will reward you. The album is available for purchase HERE. - Adam Downer

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