A few weeks ago, my parents flew in to town to visit for the weekend. During our touristy weekend, I took them to Mamacita’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant decorated to look like the town square of a little Mexican town, complete with a tortilla shop, cantina, water fountain, and a ceiling that resembles a starry night. I’d been to the restaurant before, but on this visit I noticed something new: an animatronic Davey Crocket standing atop one of the pillars, playing a faux violin. Although offensive as hell (can you imagine a Dallas restaurant featuring an animatronic JFK playing acoustic guitar?) I found pleasure in the awkward jerking of the American legend, as he moved clumsily with the mariachi recording playing on the loudspeakers.
But after Davey moved about maladroitly for 20 minutes, the music abruptly shut off, and a spotlight appeared over his head, where he stood frozen for a moment. Then, suddenly, what was once a distraction, became an eerily realistic violin performance that would put any Chuck E. Cheese man-sized mouse to shame.
Mew’s “No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry, They Washed Away” is a lot like that Davey Crocket mannequin. The album starts with the unexpected swirling sounds of “New Terrain”, with Jonas Bjerre’s once angelic voice being thrown into a blender, masked in flanger and played in reverse, with a backward synth line to boot. Obviously, the title fits. The building tilt-a-whirl of sound leads straight into “Introducing the Palace Players”, an epileptic, off-beat, mind-fuck of sound. The guitars are twangy; the beat is a half step off every few seconds – yet somehow it all sounds perfect. At this point in the album, it is evident that this Danish rock band is capable of much more than their self-proclaimed “indie stadium rock”.
Then the experiment stops. The bunson burners are put back in the cupboards and the test tubes placed in the sink. Although songs like “Repeater Beater” and “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy” hint back to the possibilities their sound offers, the remainder of the album stays rooted in their signature sound of falsetto anthems with swelling synths and driving beats. Unfortunately, their return to their tried and true doesn’t wield as great of results as “And the Glass Handed Kites”. The songs aren’t nearly as anthemic, nor do they flow together as naturally and masterfully as their last effort (plus the 15 song marathon is a bit much). These songs lack the weight that the last album commanded of you; with “Glass Handed Kites” you couldn’t stop the album without feeling like you were stomping on a fragile chrysanthemum.
The more you listen to the strange songs on “No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry, They Washed Away”, the more you yearn to hear more of the bands gawky, new dabblings. And really, as cool as it was to see Davey Crocket look so realistic, in a strange way, I preferred awkward Davey with all his flaws and foibles exposed for the entire audience of patrons and stuffed avocados to see.