Mew: + –

Some twenty one years after they formed in Copenhagen, indie Rock quartet Mew remain one of the music scene’s best kept secrets.

Feted in their homeland, they continue to enjoy relatively modest success throughout the rest of Europe and the US despite releasing a string of consistently superb albums since their inception.

They do have a fervently devoted cult following and it’s evident why once you get to see this band in the flesh – their live concert in the Academy in Dublin 2009 is still one of the best shows I have seen in the last decade, an ambitious mix of high tech visuals and epically bombastic guitar anthems.

They are not a band that play the corporate Rock game, eschewing the easy path to success to follow their own strangely, beautiful star. They have all the tools to be a massive arena rock act, but they are too quirkily cryptic, a little too otherworldly to meet the expectations of the masses.

That said, sixth album + – (another one of their eccentricities, the enigmatic album title) edges them a little closer to mass acceptance.  It’s an album that mixes Prog Rock arrangements with their ear for deceptively addictive hooks and melodies to deliver their most mainstream sounding album to date. This is the acceptable face of grandiose Rock; accented power chords, drum fills last heard on a seventies era Yes record and singer Jonas Bjerre’s ethereal falsetto combining to make a deeply unfashionable but wholly satisfying noise.

‘Satellites’ opens the album in panoramic fashion – widescreen synths give way to big hair guitar guitars and we are off and running. Bjerre manages to make the vaguely bitter lyrics sound impossibly sweet. ‘Witness’ keeps things on the up and up, indie guitar rock with that special Mew twist.  ‘The Night Believer’ features guest vocals from New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra, the boy-girl duet working particularly well on one of the albums most catchy cuts. ‘Making Friends’ is less rock, sounding curiously like the cerebral eighties pop of Scritti Politti.

Mew are never afraid to explore new terrain when the mood takes them and that’s what gives these songs their little edge. ‘Rows’ goes for the jugular after a slow burning opening, a key change and some guitar noodling – it’s an all out assault of distorted chords and ascending synth lines for a track that sounds like a set closer if ever there was one. Elsewhere, the band keep things interesting with tempo shifts, unusual chord changes and melodies that sound like they drifted down from the heavens.

+ – is an impressive addition to the ever growing catalogue of cult classics released by one of the most underrated bands on the current scene. Mew don’t deviate from their template sound to any significant degree, but when that sound is so unique, so thrillingly Mew-ish, why would they? For lovers of distinctly beautiful rock music everywhere.

 

(4 / 5)