Even if you’re a fan, it’s easy to see why people don’t like La Dispute. Their music is often too frail to match the clear emotion behind it, and even then, the insistence on coming across as so abstract and poetic can tip over into pretension without hesitation. With mewithoutYou though, it’s pretty much the same case but exacerbated to the nth degree, to the point where the divide between those who think it’s genius and and those who think it’s overcooked nonsense couldn’t be larger. And yet, there’s always been something fascinating about mewithoutYou that’s always set them apart from bands like La Dispute, namely just how widespread they are even outside of their niche corner of post-hardcore. The fact they went out on tour with Paramore this year couldn’t be more telling, and that’s created a magnetising factor around where, regardless of any opinions on them, the simple notion that they’re as ubiquitous as they are is enough to keep returning to them, if only to try and deduce why.
And while it would be good to say that [Untitled] is the album that solves that quandary once and for all, this is a mewithoutYou album so it was never going be that straightforward. However, compared to so much of their past work, this does seem to be among their most user-friendly and accessible to newcomers. It’s still tricky to totally digest at first, but there’s definitely more to like from a musical standpoint than past releases, and as such, that appeal becomes more prominent on a more surface level. It’s not exactly a fantastic album, but the steps that have been taken here can definitely be appreciated.
And really, those improvements are almost wholly in the execution, as at its core, [Untitled] doesn’t differ that greatly from mewithoutYou’s other outings. Aaron Weiss continues his deep, almost uncomfortable journey into himself in typical twisting, verbose fashion, and even for as compelling as that can be on its own, the choice to move into bleak but more sturdy emo as a backdrop really gives this sort of thing the necessary legs it needs, and in a wider context even makes previously underwhelming cuts like Julia (Or, ‘Holy To The LORD’ On The Bells Of Horses) or Another Head For Hydra feel much more necessary in a tight-knit whole. Granted, it can begin to flag towards the end with Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore struggling the electrifying climax it clearly wants to be, and Break On Through (To The Other Side) [Pt. 2] being an equally underwhelming coda, but there’s a profound sense of melancholy in [dormouse sighs] and 2,459 Miles that feels so much more natural and lived-in, while the dark, churning snarl of Wendy & Betsy even borders on post-punk. What’s more, the spoken word affectations that could previously feel so unnecessary has almost completely been replaced here, and while there’s just as much distance and artifice to Weiss’ low-sunken murmurs, it fits the whole mood so much more effectively; this is easily the most cogent a mewithoutYou album has sounded in a long time, perhaps ever.
Don’t get that confused with accessibility though, because [Untitled] certainly isn’t that. It’s still a bleak, incredibly impersonable listen that makes no apologies for it, but at this point six albums in, that’s unlikely not to be the case. The difference is this is a much more natural listen, flowing and shapeshifting in a way that benefits it on the whole rather than just to be obtuse, and that works out incredibly well for them. It’s still distinctly mewithoutYou in all of ideals it extols, but it’s a version that’s much easier to get behind now.
For fans of: La Dispute, Cursive, Circa Survive
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘[Untitled]’ by mewithoutYou is released on 5th October on Big Scary Monsters.