Saturday, December 24, 2005

Albums Of The Year: Number 8

Let's not beat about the bush, Mew made the best album of 2003. The Danish invaders created a playground for classic Scandinavian slow-burning pop suss on one side and Kevin Shields' distortion pedals on the other and let them fight to the death. Michael Stipe invited them on tour, Helena Christiansen took their photos, Brian McFadden introduced She Came Home For Christmas on CD:UK Hotshots and almost seemed interested in what he was saying, and it briefly looked like they were about to make an entry into the wider pop consciousness, albeit through a narrow side door. So what do they do next? Why, a near hour-long exploration into angular indie-prog boasting lyrics with only a passing acquaintance with the English language as we speak it, sporting no breaks between tracks, called And The Glass Handed Kites, and saddled with the cover you see above. The band bookers for the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party looked elsewhere.

So the linking devices between songs don't work all that well - it's alright, second track Chinaberry Tree could have had a minute and a half cut off its 3:30 duration and nobody would mind - but over time it begins to make an odd sort of sense. Producer Michael Beinhorn has worked with everyone from Korn to Herbie Hancock and brings to the affair the feel of a band piling everything on top of everything else until the moment it starts to shake, ultra-taut bass underpinning Thurston Moore's guitars (guest J Mascis would understand) and atmospheric synths topped with Jonas Bjerre's skyscraping vocals and sometimes seemingly in two time signatures at once. Then comes a truckload of melody, the move from Apocalypso's intra-band staredown to Special's pop melody to The Zookeeper's Boy's stately heaviness summing up the album as much as how the album suddenly turns into Sigur Ros right at the end. It's art-pop, but not as the charts would understand it.

LISTEN IN: The Zookeeper's Boy
EXTRA FEATURE: Wessex Scene get that EXCLUSIVE interview

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