Adventures of a University Finalist

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Break From Our Scheduled Programming

Mew

Mew - ...and the Glass Handed Kites (BMG, 2005)

Mew - The Zookeepers Boy

As promised here is a review of those lovely Danish boys Mew and their performance at the Brighton Concorde 2. As a result, I won't be going too much into the logistics of the boys' new album. That can wait for a time when I actually possess it's post-modern disco prog pop in my clammy hands. The 'Heaven' dixie shooter will recommence tomorrow hopefully.
Picture the scene: yours truly and his good friend from the old stomping ground, Saint Dominic of Horsham, are driving through the futuristic metropolis of Brighton bellowing at each other regarding acid nebulas, time signatures, the vast inadequacies posed by the freshly printed AA map, and pondering why a speed camera just flashed us when I was actually under the speed limit (promise on Sir Cliff's life). Finally, weary and parched we reach the neon boulevard by the sea, park several leagues away from the Concorde, and slowly trudge whilst discussing whether government issued photo ID cards are rquired for entry to the venue.
When we finally set foot inside the clean yet also remarkably dingy place of musical birth, we make our way to the bar to buy water and cola made from the finest virgin's blood (why they couldn't get regular Coke is beyond me - Branson, you have much to answer for in regard to your sub-par soft drinks... and the whole train hoopla too) only to be pestered by well-intentioned souls proffering scratchcards, mailing lists, and snazzy gold buttons to be placed on garments for aesthetic pleasure to one and all. After escaping the overexaggerated throng that had built around us we wondered to gaze upon the rather poor merchandise and the support band's vast array of equipment. Layered keyboards, two basses, several guitars, a Roxy Music switchboard arrangement for Eno wannabes and a rather sparse drum kit for a band that was supposed to be "prog". Having suitably admired the arrangments, we settled down as the PA blasted out 'Songs for the Deaf' from start to finish and, ultimately, were pissed off when 'Do It Again' was unwelcomely interrupted by the arrival of the mythical support band. Pure Reason Revolution are noveau darlings of the media with pleasant write ups from The Fly, The NME, and Uncut. Pure Reason Revolution represent an ironic melisma of noise. The presence of two guitars is always welcome in a band that represent themselves as progressive as one sees a rosy vision of Powell/Turner soloing pitching between the wistful melodies and bit between the teeth aluminium canters. Instead they sought to drown each other out with a cornucopia of useless effects whilst the bass rumbled at such a heart imploding frequency that this battle soon became insignificant. Innovative maybe but atonal violin spatter, Pat Benatat lookalike bassists, the lack of any audible climaxes to any of their songs and no fruity bouquets of cheesy guitar solos left this well dry of both humour and zest. The fact that they said bugger all to the audience other than hello and goodbye didn't really help this charisma charity fund in waiting.
So once PRR had plodded off following their 30 minute stint which was either a very long medley or five unformed chunks of witless experimentation hopelessly seeking for a tangible hook, we waited for Mew. Off went all the excessive equipment, up went a white screen behind the stage, and on strolled the Danish bacon. Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Jonas Bjerre is the cross between an androgynous alien and a porpoise with his angelic countenance fractured by his over large mouth and his accompanying pure diamond falsetto. The bassist Johan Wolhert, an eerie ringer for Viggo Morternsen with his 11 o'clock stubble, unkempt locks, and bandaged wrists, is the band's mouthpiece outside of the musical numbers. Lead Guitarist Bo Madsen is certainly a presence, switching between eerily still during 'Am I Wry, No?' to hyper kinetic in 'She Spider' sawing at strings arryhmically as his hair fell over his face and his body twisted into uncomfortable spasms. One of the moments of the night was his introduction of the band's new single, 'Special', as "Pornographic, y'all" in his best Star of the Confederacy voice. The drummer, Silas Graae, looks like Scott Gorham causing time to rip sevenfold giving the keyboardist a killer Phil Lynott afro. If the band had kicked into 'Rosalie', all would have been complete for Mew to destroy the world in one fell swoop. Instead, they ripped through 7 of Frengers' 10 majestic tracks hitting them all on the nose, especially 'Eight Flew Over, One Was Destroyed' which somehow allowed new dimensions offered by the song to enter my conscience creating a magnificent set of zirconium encrusted tweezers which Zappa and his kin would surely have been proud. That's the thing about Mew; they're a band that is simplistic in approach which seeks to become the cream of the crop by praying upon its strengths. In doing so, they become so unidentifiable because they are so individualistic. The only band that I can really compare them to are Scritti Politti. There's the enigmatic frontman with the soulful falsetto croon, the dadaist lyrical constructs, the refusal to readily identify with current trends, the recognition of the key rules governing the creation of a brilliant pop song, and the ability to bend those rules. There's also the fact that they're both so goddamn good.
The live set was tight and welcome in its reliance on songs that the band knew that the band would recognise regarding the fact that the new album isn't out until Monday here in the UK. The only songs they played off the new record were the two singles, speckled disco egg 'Special' and 'Apocalypso', the Supernaut instrumental opener of 'Circuitry of the Wolf', the J Mascis collaboration of 'Why Are You Looking Grave?', and the rainbow kissed, indigo imprint of 'The Zookeeper's Boy' which should be the successor to 'Wood Beez'. J Mascis, you say? Sadly, the bloated voice of deprivation didn't turn up but was broadcast via the mixing desk. Thankfully, he sounded as gravelly and uninterested as usual so the experience wasn't ruined. And neither are Mew, mad scientists the lot of them, still ready to force us to drink slimline tonics, read William Burroughs, and find out where the wild things really are.

Buy - Mew - ...and the Glass Handed Kites (out on the 26th of September in the UK)
Visit - Mew
Watch - Tickets for the Current UK Tour