Your humble author first saw Mew on one of those corporate-sponsored, throw-any-three-bands-together tours which are all the rage nowadays, as the Danish trio supported their fourth album And the Glass Handed Kites. Immersed in kaleidoscopic projections as swirling as their music, one wondered if this was what it was like to watch a young Pink Floyd figure out how to give it their all. That night may not have been overpowering evidence of Mew’s presence—stealing stage thunder from Kasabian, as they did, is no struggle—but their newest album should provide them with an infusion of fresh interest.
No More Stories… (its full title comprising the lyrics of its song “Hawaii Dream”) draws you in on a superficial yet entertaining level. The last few years have seen swelling ranks of indie musicians who rep for new progressive, new psychedelia, and otherwise contorted rock. Few manage to latch onto a reference point that reminds listeners of musical history without necessarily repeating it. Tool, as metal as they are, always had King Crimson at heart. In Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca you can hear the fractured guitar figures and plaintive harmonies that got the epics of Yes on the radio. Mew unconsciously find a foundation for No More Stories… in prog’s long-lamented friends, Genesis—and not they who hammed it up on television throughout the pastel mid-1980s, but the band of the Peter Gabriel and early-to-mid-Phil Collins days.
That period was good for the occasional difficult Genesis single; Mew’s “Introducing Palace Players” is no different, a stutter-stepping counterpart to Dirty Projectors’ “Temecula Sunrise.” Both Gabriel and Collins could muster up high notes and falsettos to give their otherworldly lyrical nonsense an air of majesty; Mew vocalist Jonas Bjerre leads explorations of the upper register in work like “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds,” and offers pleasant melodic advice atop a wailing multitrack chorus on “Hawaii.” And where the secret weapon for Genesis’ tales could occasionally be found in Tony Banks’ racing keyboards, whomever channeled his abilities—studio player Nico Muhly? producer Rich Costey? the whole trio on effects pedals?—on songs like “Vaccine” and “Tricks” remains a pleasant mystery.
The band manages to prove themselves quite capable of more straightforward rock, as “Beach” is loopy meaningless pop and “Repeaterbeater” a curious two-minute stormer. But while it might be a concession to accessibility, it’s Mew’s embrace of a throwback sound throughout No More Stories… that makes the album an intriguing listen.