mewithoutYou Pale Horses
(Run for Cover Records – June 16, 2015)
Review by Justin Cooper
I have a pretty pathetically serious soft spot for mewithoutYou: I’ve been seeing them live since i was 15, I’ve gotten Rickey Mazzotta drunk in a sad venue when he was filling in on drums for Buried Beds, I’ve shit art on a guitar pedal for Mike Weiss. This was all (several, at this point) years ago. So it’s all useless, according to mewithoutYou.
But the past is important, especially when it pertains to the career of musicians.
- 2002’s [A→B] Life changed the “Christian Hardcore” scene. Bands like Under
oath, Norma Jean, and As I Lay Dying were screaming, squealing, and double-pedaling their way into hearts of black-haired, tattoo-wanting, Jesus-loving, angst-ridden kids all over the United States (myself, unfortunately, included). Then something specifically weird happened. mewithoutYou popped up on Tooth and Nail Records. Shouting, not screaming. They fell more on the punk spectrum. Their drummer didn’t have 26 cymbals, OR two kick drums. The lyrics read like poetry, with verses like, “She put on happiness like a loose dress/ Over pain I’ll never know/ “So the peace you had,” she says/ “I must confess I’m glad to see it go.”/ We’re two white roses lying frozen just outside his door/ I’ve made you happy and so sad,/ But which should I be more sorry for?”. Something new was happening.
- 2004’s Catch For Us the Foxes was musically more melodic and WAY more overtly biblical. mewithoutYou loves to alienate it’s fan-base. Normally, this jeopardizes careers. They don’t seem to care and it’s worked for over ten years. Catch proved that mwY was very obviously NOT a one trick pony. Most career-spanning fans consider this their strongest album. I disagree.
- 2006’s Brother, Sister followed in similar steps of Catch For Us the Foxes, retaining their melodic nuances. Aaron Weiss strayed from shouting, but still felt aggressive. “O’Porcupine” will probably remain my favorite song of their’s forever (It featured Jeremy Enigk, of Sunny Day Real Estate fame).
- 2009’s It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! Its All A Dream! It’s Alright opened so strongly with “Every Thought A Thought Of You”, but soon felt too much like a Neutral Milk Hotel ripoff album. There are still strong songs, but to me it felt musically phoned-in.
- 2012’s Ten Stories is, well was, my favorite mewithoutYou album. It’s melodies are near perfect, Weiss’ vocals seemed stronger than ever, the rhythm section poured originality. AND it was a fucking concept album. Usually concept albums are a cheap gimmick. There are VERY few exceptions to this rule. However, they pulled it off. Ten Stories was, to me, their most personal album, even though the opinions and situations were delivered through the perspective of various circus animals. I LOVE “Ten Stories”.
Then we come to 2015’s Pale Horses,
The album opens with “Pale Horse”. A true burner. The best way to open an album, in my opinion. The apocalyptic and uncertain sense that the album tends to lend itself to is already apparent. Out of the silence ‘Watermelon Ascot’ bursts in with driving guitar, punching drums, and Weiss’ signature (borderline aggressive) vocals. It begins to pull you in. Still a slow-burn transitional song from mewithoutYou. “D-Minor” follows suit. Then CUT!
Pale Horses opens up and becomes true to itself with “Mexican War Streets”. It too, begins relatively quiet with a slow melody – then the chugging guitar riffs, driving bass and drums pedal through. mewithoutYou transitions back to aggression, anger and frustration. Lyrics such as, “I admit, it warms my heart to watch your world fall apart,” “To
hell heck with all the drugs my parents did/ I’d like to meet whoever said the words we print in red/ with a coin in my teeth on Mexican war streets/ rivers of sadness and mutual need in the loud desperation of social routine.”
The first single, “Red Cow” feels like a classic mwY song. The quiet-loud-quiet routine that encapsulated Catch For Us the Foxes is present, but in my opinion, seems more focused, more personal. “Dorothy” is the only truly religious song on the album. Weiss’ father died a few years back and this seems to be the song that is trying to come to grips with that.
“Blue Hen” is the weakest song on the album. It feels like a filler, like most of “Its All Crazy!”. “Lilac Queen” is weaker too, but transitions well into the last half of the song. It’s drum and bass work is some of the catchiest mwY has produced in several years. The dual vocals towards the end are impressively emotional. I love the end of this song.
I don’t want to ruin anything on the final three tracks of “Pale Horses”. Let’s just say they comprise my favorite end to a record in a VERY long time. “Rainbow Signs” is the best song mewithoutYou has ever composed and wraps this album up perfectly.
As of June 16th, this is my album of the year.
Pale Horses is available from Run For Cover Records and mewithoutyou.com