Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites

By on Sunday, 24th September 2006 at 10:45 am

Mew have never been a band to be hastened, never ones to hurry up and “burst onto the scene” a la Artic Monkeys, Killers, James Blunt. They released their debut album in 1997 but only started getting critical acclaim in 2003, and since then have been on triumphant tours with REM and Bloc Party, whilst quietly building a large fanbase.

In line with this, when I first listened to “And the Glass Handed Kites” I found it unlistenable. Hated it. Just as I was prepared to write my first sominty review that slates a band outright, I gave it another go. And found it grew on me. So I postponed reviewing it for another week, during which time it’s just grown and grown on me.

Opening with “Circuitry of the Wolf” the album gets off to a rocky beginning, slowly climbing into a massive crescendo that climaxes at the start of “Chinaberry Tree”. Whilst lead singer Jonas Bjerre’s lyrics are sometimes hard to distinguish, they do add to the epic nature of the album, and if you just let them fall over you his lyrics become an extra, vibrant instrument.

“Special” is the most radio-friendly track of the album, and as such its disco-stomp will either be your favourite track of the album, or your most hated as its not as orchestral as some tracks, but is immediately hummable.

Many of the songs fade into each other with no distinguishable gap between them, showing that the album is designed to be listened to in one sitting and viewed as one epic piece of work, and as such its all the stronger: it sounds like one prolonged soundtrack, telling the story of some epic journey across treacherous seas and mountainous terrain. As such, “Special” blurs into “Zookeeper’s Boy” where Jonas’ voice comes into its own: Sounding confident, yet still quiet and gentle he manages to get some truly ingenious lyrics out: “But if there’s a glitch, You’re an ostrich, You’ve got your head in the sand”.

Whilst the first half of the album may be more immediately accessible, its second half can be more rewarding to the more long term listener. Layers of music and lyrics build and wash over the patient listener, the most obvious example being “Louise Louisa”, with its multiple parts allowing for a more epic ending to the album.

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