mewithoutYou - It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright (2009)

Tooth & Nail

If Wikipedia is accurate, Aaron Weiss primarily conceived mewithoutYou as a vehicle to experiment with new sounds, so the progression that this band has gone through the past eight years should be a shock to no one. 2006's Brother, Sister expanded the band's palette to include more percussion and string instruments, while their latest, It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright strips down the styles with a more classically folk approach yet opens the field further with legitimate orchestral arrangements. Between that and the band's new literary bend, the Decemberists make for the easiest comparison, but Weiss is all the more fragile and delicate of a narrator than Colin Meloy ever was.

The album largely zones in on the tales and lessons of a saintly Sri Lankan teacher and mystic, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, whose children's stories apparently affected Weiss deeply early on in Weiss's life. Consequently, much of that personal tension the band developed a reputation from is largely absent here, but it isn't a totally imbalanced tradeoff. The album's imagery comes alive with personified animals, the seeds and flowers and other fruits of nature's creations, and a feast of varied food and drinks, Weiss narrating all these picturesque scenes above a lush, organic mix of instruments.

These self-interrogations are present here and there, though. Within the first few seconds of the album, Weiss is already melodically muttering, "Every thought a thought of You / No more thought, I ought to do..." Certain couplets in this opener, "Every Thought a Thought of You," appear as personal as Weiss has tended to be throughout the band's song catalog, but it's a rare repeat.

The first single, "The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie" is the most bubbly the album really allows itself to become, with a head-bobbing, uptempo shuffle, while similar moods occasionally pervade "Goodbye, I!" in lighter ways. Otherwise, the band manage to shift carefully from relaxed stances to more taut situations like those in the complex redux, "Bullet to Binary (Pt. Two)," which transforms the band's early ragged "breakout" single into an equally but weirdly rigid, multi-structured five-minute epic. Frankly, as sincerely as he seems to channel these childhood stories, Weiss just sounds sarcastic when he ushers in "Timothy Hay" with a "doo doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo, dooo, dooo..." The complexity and thought put into these songs does impress mightily, though, from the bare introductions to the repetitive climaxes of "Timothy Hay," "Cattail Down" and "The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate."

It's hard to listen to mewithoutYou lacking their incredibly introspective and soul-baring critiques and admissions that made albums like Brother, Sister and Catch for Us the Foxes such cathartic collections of concoctions. There was a time in the band's existence when you could tell it wasn't always sunny in Philadelphia. Still, the band's lifelong character does remain wholly visible in the earthy artwork and unconventional typesetting in the physical aspects of the packaging.

While the remaining pages of mewithoutYou's diaries beg for disclosure, the musical imagining of other sheets is captivating in a way, and not even the pages from *that* book. Like a good play, It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright brings simple moral tales alive with balance and delicacy, bearing a consequential power that's hard to deny.

Every Thought a Thought of You
The Fox, The Crow and the Cookie
Goodbye, I!
Bullet to Binary (Pt. Two)