Reviews mewithoutYou It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright

mewithoutYou

It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright

The title for Philadelphia act mewithoutYou’s fourth album comes from Parable 518 of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen’s The Golden Words of a Sufi Sheikh where he writes, “It's all false, It's all a dream, It's all crazy, It's all over, It's all right, Let's see what's next.” Perhaps better than any others, these words mirror the band’s evolution from their screamish [A->B] Life to the cerebral howls on Catch for Us the Foxes to the more symphonic rock of Brother, Sister to this new melodic, folksy record. Lead singer Aaron Weiss’ trademark spoken-word vocals have moved the megaphone-into-mic aesthetic of his youth to a style which, at moments, is actually reminiscent of indie-deity Jeff Mangum’s. Such aggressive reinvention invites the alienation of fans, but also wards off stagnancy.

mewithoutYou has often been disregarded by rock and roll purists for being a Christian act; and while it is true that Weiss’ religion has always played a prominent role in his lyrics, more often than not they tend to reveal his personal relationship with God as opposed to evangelical tendencies. Weiss himself stated numerous times he doesn’t consider mewithoutYou a Christian band and that he is uncomfortable with the label. If genuine exploration of self and universe is the aim of an artist (and it ought to be), then it is only rational the spiritual artist incorporate elements of that relationship in his or her art. It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright is more explicitly religious than any of the band’s previous releases, but in a musical climate dominated by the same tired antipathy we have been listening to since the sixties, the allegorical, celebratory tracks found here are refreshing to say the least.

And, with a creative writing degree from Temple University, Weiss’ ability to construct compelling stories rich with evocative imagery and clever metaphors is among the best in modern rock. On this album, he strips down his lyrics along with his music, utilizing anthropomorphic animals in legitimately powerful fables and repetitive choral chants to create an almost sing-along-ish vibe which has been compared to “Raffi for adults.”

Interestingly for a band on Tooth & Nail, the lyrics are also influenced by the Weiss’ mother’s devotion to Sufi Islam. Their previous record featured an excerpt from salaat, the traditional Muslim prayer, and the band has done shows under the name “Inshallah,” meaning “God-willing” in Arabic. On the album's final track, the Cat Sevens-esque “Allah, Allah, Allah,” he sings, “In every blade of grass, in every blade of grass, in every blade of grass, Allah, Allah, Allah, in every blade of grass.” Weiss's music incorporates elements from the entire spectrum of his life’s spirituality, and while it might make this album feel somewhat disjointed (“A Stick, a Carrot, and a String” tells Jesus’ life story), it also reflects an ambitious narrative scope.

Sonically, the folksy record feels more intimate and less confrontational than any the band’s previous efforts. From the poppy first track, “Every Thought a Thought of You,” Weiss’ delivery is noticeably more modest than ever before. The campfire balladry of “The Angel of Death Came to David’s Room” and the Mangum-esque “Timothy Hay” are testament to the band’s capacity for creating intensely commanding acoustic tracks, though “The Fox, the Crow, the Cookie” and “Bullet to Binary (Part Two)” show they haven’t forgotten how to rock. The album’s final track, “Allah, Allah, Allah” is a wonderfully crafted hold-hands-and-sing-along number that will undoubtedly become a mainstay of their live act for years to come.

This is arguably mewithoutYou’s most solid release to date. While fans of the bands angrier, louder efforts might be disappointed, the dense lyricism and precise musical craftsmanship found here lands It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright among the year’s best records.

9.0 / 10Kaveh
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