Music Reviews
And the Glass Handed Kites

Mew And the Glass Handed Kites

(Sony) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10 Allmusic.com lists My Bloody Valentine and the Pet Shop Boys among Mew's influences. Yeah, you read that right. And guess what? On their new album, and first widely available release, those influences can be clearly heard, and not surprisingly, the results are unique and unexpected. And the Glass Handed Kites successfully blends a raw, cavernous guitar attack with dreamy synth and vocal performances, and while the product of this marriage is much more Loveless than it is Actually, the vulnerability of the latter is very much in evidence. The sweet tunes and soaring vocals on songs like The Zookeeper's Boy and The Seething Rain Weeps for You (Uda Pruda) belie an eagerness to please resonant of the purest pop music, even if they are buried under an avalanche of intergalactic shoe-gaze. By which I mean there is a directness of expression here and a willingness to engage the listener that is not a standard by-product of most "space rock" or "dream pop" or whatever you want to call it.

Allmusic.com lists My Bloody Valentine and the Pet Shop Boys among Mew's influences. Yeah, you read that right. And guess what? On their new album, and first widely available release, those influences can be clearly heard, and not surprisingly, the results are unique and unexpected. And the Glass Handed Kites successfully blends a raw, cavernous guitar attack with dreamy synth and vocal performances, and while the product of this marriage is much more Loveless than it is Actually, the vulnerability of the latter is very much in evidence. The sweet tunes and soaring vocals on songs like The Zookeeper's Boy and The Seething Rain Weeps for You (Uda Pruda) belie an eagerness to please resonant of the purest pop music, even if they are buried under an avalanche of intergalactic shoe-gaze. By which I mean there is a directness of expression here and a willingness to engage the listener that is not a standard by-product of most "space rock" or "dream pop" or whatever you want to call it.

And thank Yahweh for that. Finally, a shoe-gaze album you can actually like and which doesn't mind, nay, actively desires, being liked. These sound like dudes with (please forgive me for the following cheesy, clichéd and utterly inane statement, except that I can't think of anything better) their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. You may even enjoy sharing a Carlsberg with them, which is more than you can say for the usual assortment of introverted brats making noises like these. So you'll see that some critics recommend this album to people who liked OK Computer, for instance, which makes no sense in musical terms since the two sound nothing alike, but makes perfect sense if we consider them both as genre examples of "accessible space rock", or whatever. Make up your own description if you think you can do better; I'm tired.

Along with the aforementioned influences, Mew's sound also incorporates the angular, aggressive guitar techniques and odd time signatures of the dance punk revival, fast wearing out its welcome. But it works, because Mew recontextualizes the style by making it work against a more languid foundation. Chinaberry Tree, the first proper song after the introduction of Circuitry of the Wolf, perfectly blends all the elements in one neat package. The vocals ring out, the synths envelop and the guitar and drums chug along against the current. Sometimes the aggressive approach takes over, as in Apocalypso, which may or may not be the theme song to the upcoming Mel Gibson movie. This works, and serves to extend the band's range, which is not limited to upbeat, spaced-out tunes.

You can tell a lot about a band by the way they choose to end their albums. On this one, the vocalist sings alone, "stay with me, don't want to be alone". This is probably the exact opposite of what you'd expect from a typical shoe-gaze band and perfectly encapsulates their esthetic. Mew is playing for you, not their shoe.