Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

The Zookeeper's Boy

One thing you should know about Mew is that their name is actually the toughest thing about them. If you recall my review of their latest album And The Glass Handed Kites last month, I described them as “hyper-kinetic, ultra-urban neon wilderness of glass and stainless steel… epic-length glammy post-prog-space rock with touches of Queen-approved arena-metal grandiosity”. Well that’s still sort of true if you you alter it to read “hyper-kinetic static, ultra-urban fey neon wilderness of glass and stainless steel… epic-length glammy power ballad post-prog-space rock with touches of Queen-approved 80’s arena-metal grandiosity”.

Currently on tour with Kasabian, Mew took advantage of an opening in the schedule to book their own headlining show in Toronto before zipping up to Montreal last night and back here tonight for a show at the Phoenix. While thankful that I wouldn’t have to go to see Kasabian, I found it a little puzzling – from what I could tell, their profile in Canada was non-existant so was there really a demand for two shows in three nights from the Danes? Apparently so – the Mod Club was near capacity by the time the band took the stage, and not just from the curious like me. Many in attendance were the faithful.

I think I realized things were going to be… unusual when a few songs in, they introduced “Why Are You Looking Grave?” by stating that J Mascis – who contributed vocals on the album version – couldn’t be in attendance but they had him on tape… and on the screen. And then the video screens on which they’d been projecting strange, fantastical and occasionally nightmarish visuals (I now realize the album art was probably entirely their idea) threw up a big image of J, just standing there. He wasn’t singing his parts, as the female vocalist who got the video treatment on the previous song did, but just stood there. Blinking, waiting, but certainly not doing much else, while all the while singer Jonas Bjerre sang to him as though he were right there. Maybe I’m not conveying the sheer bizarreness of it well enough, but trust me – it really was the most demented thing.

And that moment sort of encapsulated the night for me in a nutshell. I had expected a rock show, and instead got something decidedly not. They did perform a few of the heavier numbers from Glass-Handed Kites but the band’s general lack of energy – Bjerre, all dewy-eyed and delicate, barely moved from the same spot even though he had the mic in his hand – kept them from rocking in any meaningful way. Instead, they stuck largely to the slower numbers that allowed Bjerre to exercise his soaring, elastic voice which is indeed remarkable but unfortunately came off a little more cheesy than impactful in the overwhelmingly soft rock context of the show. There’s other little things I could present as further evidence of this, but that’d be getting petty and nitpicky and I’m reminded of something else I wrote in my initial review – “I intially found it hard to believe what I was hearing was created unironically but I think that’s more a comment on my own musical cynicism than anything else” – and I think maybe that goes exponentially so for the live show… So I’ll just say that I didn’t NOT enjoy it, I was just more confused/amused than anything.

Openers Nassau didn’t especially seem like they wanted to be there, sort of trudging through their set of two-chord, droney tunes without much energy. No one will ever confuse them for an exciting band, but they were still better than the last time I saw them over a year ago. The songs had a little more variety to them and the last two, which they declared as their pop songs, showed that frontman Jon McCann learned a thing or two about songwriting and melody in his time as stickman for Guided By Voices. Now if he could just pick up a scissor kick or mic twirl from Bob, they’d be getting somewhere.

Photos: Mew, Nassau @ The Mod Club – September 25, 2006
MP3: Mew – “Chinaberry Tree” (from And The Glass-Handed Kites)
MP3: Nassau – “How Long”
MP3: Nassau – “Falling Out”
Video: Mew – “Special” (YouTube)
Video: Mew – “The Zookeper’s Boy” (YouTube)
MySpace: Mew
MySpace: Nassau

Okay – so you remember last week I made mention of Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon’s ill health and the need to raise money to cover associated costs? Well nicking an idea from rbally’s ipod auction, here’s my bit – I’m auctioning off a copy of the super-rare first Emily Haines album Cut In Half And Also Double, circa 1997, on eBay and will be donating all proceeds to the fund. My understanding is that this thing sells for three figures when it comes to market so here’s hoping that it raises some decent coin. If you know any obsessive Metric fans out there with some cash to drop, let them know about it.

So now that The Science Of Sleep has been out for a little while (well, almost a week) and some of you have had a chance to see it, what are your thoughts on it in comparison to mine? Genuinely curious. Salon’s review is pretty in line with my take and they’ve also assembled a nice video tribute to the music video and commercial works of Michel Gondry. Paste also has an interview with Gondry and I’ve got an MP3 of the Velvet Underground remix/cover of “After Hours” that Gael Garcia Bernal’s fantasy cat band plays in the film. There’s also a sort-of video for the song featuring a cat rescue operation and far-more-attractive-than-usual cat lady.

MP3: “If You Rescue Me” from The Science Of Sleep
Video: “If You Rescue Me” from The Science Of Sleep (YouTube)

This should have been appended to yesterday’s postB(oot)log has some Grizzly Bear UK radio sessions MP3-ified for your downloading pleasure.

According to Pollstar, the bill at the El Mocambo for November 4 has hit silly proportions. They’ve got Pretty Girls Make Graves, A Gun Called Tension, The Drones, Favourite Sons AND The Devastations all scheduled to play there that night. I know the first two acts are touring together and the last three acts are also touring together, but I’m doubtful they’re all playing together, unless it’s an upstairs/downstairs dealie but I didn’t think they even booked shows for the upstairs anymore? Yes/no? I’ve heard good things about The Devastations, hence my mild interest in how this shakes out.

James McNew seems to have assumed press duties for Yo La Tengo – the genial bassman has a rather extensive Q&A with The Montreal Gazette and shorter conversations with The Ottawa Sun and Glide. Amazingly, after a run of being out for 15 of the last 18 nights, I am show-less until the Yo La Tengo show at the Phoenix next Monday. A whole week off! Just in time for work to beat my ass Yo La Tengo-stylez. Great.

np – Forget Cassettes / Salt

By : Frank Yang at 8:28 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. ZipZapZopZoup says:

    You should check out the Devestations album Coal as soon as possible. They work in the same vein as the National, and the CD is pretty solid, start to finish.

  2. danieljosef says:

    I was at the Mew show also. I felt very similar to you, the material off And The Glass Handed Kites was much better than their old material. The "duet" with the projected female vocalist was a disgrace, it felt like bad karaoke. The J. Mascis tune, wasn’t as bad. Overall, I enjoyed the show, their noisier tunes from And The… sounded great live.

  3. erik smith says:

    Gotta say… I must have been at a completely different show than you, Frank.

    I couldn’t have been more impressed by Mew’s set at the Mod Club on Monday. Fantastic show featuring almost all of their great newer songs, as well as songs from their previous album, Frengers.

    I went in with a few friends who had never even heard of Mew before, and at the end of the show were gushing about how good they were.
    The visuals were just great, I think that the band seemed really into it, and Bjerre looked to be loving the crowd.

    I have no idea where you get the idea that it was a "soft rock" show.

  4. Carrie says:

    Yep, they’re still booking bands upstairs…I was supposed to go to a show up there this past weekend, but was crazy sick. :(

  5. Frank says:

    don’t know what to say, Erik. It was obvious from the response that a lot of the crowd loved the show, and that’s cool. I just wasn’t really feeling it.

  6. Alizee says:

    Mew were absolutely amazing. You could probably count me amongst the faithful (and those that got into them on the strength of Frengers), but what I got was exactly what I had expected from them. I don’t think that soft rock tag does them justice, but they were definetely dreamy and atmospheric.

  7. kat says:

    Mew on Monday were amazing! I thought their energy was great.

    RE: Science Of Sleep – I was at the screening and I am disappointed to say I didn’t enjoy it. I knew it would be weird, but really, someone has to tame Michel Goundry. It lacked a bit of structure. It needed SOMETHING to ground the storyline. I wouldn’t recommend it.

  8. PG says:

    science of sleep to me was about a huge amount of tiny little moments, carefully constructed. some of my friends were frustrated by it, but I see that as in part the intention-it only makes sense that such a dream-heavy movie would have so little conventional narrative structure. and it looks good.

  9. Milosz says:

    Not sure what show you were listening to but I could definitely here J Mascis’ vocals on the tape. Not as loud as Jonas’ sure, but definitely there. Peraps wearinf musician’s ear plugs paid off that night.

    Thought it was a great show. Loved the visuals and was really impressed by the band.

  10. Frank says:

    No I heard J just fine, it was hearing him but seeing the video of him onscreen not singing or doing anything that initiated my break from reality for the rest of that night.

  11. jennings Aske says:

    Thanks for mentioning the iPod auction . . . and great idea with yours. I’ll return the shout.

  12. Flying Dutchman says:

    are some bands allowed to be good just on record? mew sure has some rocking songs on their records.

  13. John Fogde says:

    Just wanted to let you know that Mew’s previously out-of-print 1997 debut album "A Triumph For Man" has been re-released. It is very different from their other records in that it’s a lot more jangly and considerably less keyboard-heavy.

    It’s still my favourite Mew album, so you might want to check it out.

  14. eric warner says:

    hey frank,
    My show is PGMG, night canopy and moonrats. early all ages show, the other show is seperate.

  15. jon says:

    mew are boring.
    he’s vocals are numb and a little to girly.
    m.o.r. hard, slow, hard, slow art/indie rock.
    lifeless. dull.

    kasabian are the real deal.
    dig it.
    larger than life.
    positive, fun and interesting.

    kasabian will join the A listers soon.
    mew will never get out of the c leauge.


  16. Arpit says:

    The Science of Sleep soundtrack is really cool – still waiting to see the movie. Hopefully it’ll be sooner than later!