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Album Review: Mew – + –

3 min read

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Mew. After releasing the widely acclaimed and excessively titled No More Stories / Are Told Today / I’m Sorry / They Washed Away // No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I’m Tired / Let’s Wash Away near the end of 2009, the most we have heard from them was a compilation album and a single. Now that they’ve returned and brought their once ex-bassist Johan Wohlert back into the band after his absence from the last album, the main question is how their new album+ – fares.

Mew - Plus MinusThe change between No More Stories and + – is noticeable from the moment you start the album. Rather than being full of upbeat rock songs, this time the tempo is taken down and the additional sounds are increased. Songs often amount to being a wall of sound, between the atmospheric sounds on top with a lot of distorted vocals, piano, guitar and other elements being thrown into the mix, which is especially noticeable on Making Friends.

It’s a sound that works well for the album, and there are plenty of strong songs early into the album. The opening track and lead single Satellites uses a slow build from a minimal ethereal backdrop of sound into a quirky rock song, setting the mood of the album straight away and starting it on a strong note. Witness mixes verses akin to their last album and choruses that fit better on the new album to make something that straddles both sounds perfectly. By the time the album reaches My Complications at track six and the sound switching style of Witness is revisited that the album shows its best song, sticking out with its up-tempo beat and interesting use of pianos and harp-like sounds in the chorus to catch your attention and hold it.

While My Complications stands as the strongest song, it also serves as the peak point for the album. Over the final four tracks, the album falls into a slump filled with dream pop style songs rather than rock, none of which really stand out from each other. This would be bad enough by itself, but it’s a problem that only gets worse. Rows clocks in at almost eleven minutes in length, while Cross The River On Your Own goes for about seven. These long run times mixed with the uninteresting productions makes these two songs almost impossible to listen to, especially when Rows starts abusing the wall of sound technique five minutes in and stays at the same level until the end.

These final tracks place an unmistakable blemish on what was setting itself up to be a great album, which was disappointing to see. However, the strength of the first six songs is something that shouldn’t be ignored either. While Mew haven’t made an amazing album here, it offers at least half an album’s worth of content that is genuinely enjoyable. + – ended up being a half-hearted return rather than a triumphant comeback.