mewithoutYou- Pale Horses
by Ben Freiman (Biology), published September 17th 2015
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
mewithoutYou has returned to their religious roots, only to make their most vast, different album to date. The band formed 15 years ago as a Christian rock group, writing music similar to La Dispute in that the lyrics and music are entirely separate entities which only come together later. This allows singer Aaron Weiss’ poetry to shine through, even on past releases in which the singing and/or music has been criticized.
Pale Horses shifts from the band’s recent releases, both in topic and tone. Weiss discusses his lack of confidence in religion and God, as well as the various bastardizations of religion. Not only does Weiss have this lack of confidence in what is true spiritually, he has developed a lack of confidence in himself. In an interview with Myspace, when asked why he changed his vocal style and left his lyrics more ambiguous, he answered, “I sort of questioned my ability to communicate anything worthwhile … it came from me being less confident in my power to save anybody.”
This shift in confidence, both in faith and self, is reflected in the musical tone, leading to an album which more closely resembles Interpol or The National than Circa Survive, with a rough, baritone and somewhat monotone voice explaining apocalypse and darkness over driving yet softened guitars and drums. The album opens with the eponymous track, something which gives the false impression of a slow introduction into a harsh album, most similar in sound to Brand New’s “Tautou.” The following track, “Watermelon Ascot,” drives right into the heart of the album, not too angry, not too confident, but some blend of insecurity and noise. The whole of the song functions as a religiously tinged version of the R.E.M. classic “It’s the End of the World as We Know It,” intentionally referencing the song throughout while also discussing everything from Lot to the Battle of Bighorn.
The album then really picks up in songs such as “D-Minor,” which discusses the recent illustration depicting Muhammad and following incidents of violence in Europe. Perhaps the doubt in faith is most present here in lines such as, “This is not the first time capitalized three-letter sound has died.” “Dorothy” discusses a variety of religions, talking first about the futility of the Hindu idea of reincarnation and then referencing “Elohai,” the Hebrew word for “my God” shouted by Jesus as He himself questioned God. “Lilac Queen” discusses how Weiss felt about his wife’s family and their insecurities about his religion, comparing himself to the “ISIS flag design.” The album culminates in ”Rainbow Signs,” a song about nuclear apocalypse being a message from God similar to Noah’s flood, before offering both a Jewish prayer and a Muslim prayer, both similarly translating to “He is our God, God is one.” The song references “Dorothy” near its end, before the album closes on an inside joke about the Bible, which is never explained to the listener.
The ambiguity of this album, as well as its complex musical tones and styles and the overall feeling of unsureness – about oneself, about the music, about God, about apocalypse – gives an eerie feeling to an overall intriguing and thought-provoking project.
Recommended Tracks: D-Minor, Watermelon Ascot, Lilac Queen