mewithoutYou don’t play games, at least not in a musical sense. All of their respective albums followed a thematic understanding, rife with religious undertones, philosophy, and perhaps most importantly, storytelling- all in an effort to make sense of humanity and the world around us. MewithoutYou are a musical group who load their sound with a message, a purpose, a consequence to actions in life and a reward for fortitude and brilliance. The four-some released ‘Ten Stories’ recently to overall critical acclaim. Reviews generally revolved around the blending of their more acoustic sound and their more heavy rock background as heard on their earliest releases. Other praise included the deliberate instrumentation and quality songwriting that weaves itself through every heart-inducing melody. Yet the singular and unanimous praise is the group’s lyrical direction.
The lyrics are penned almost solely by Aaron Weiss, the group’s front man and main vocalist. They are often religious, but always filtered through the steady consciousness of humanity as a whole. It is never overbearing; the approach is tender, subtle and empowering.
This is what drives ‘Ten Stories.’ The album is about a circus train that crashes, scattering all sorts of animals from the wreckage.
Some animals escape with immediacy. Some animals are hesitant, and need a push from their fellow trusted animals to take that first step from the train and into freedom. And some animals stay scared, cowering, surrounded by the unknown and choosing the darkness of what they know (the wreckage) as opposed to the mystery of what is not.
These animals represent people, or at least we assume so.
Weiss’ lyrics pen a story of animals who feel trapped, freed, and all things in-between, but it really represents the people who make these type of decisions in their own reality.
Will you remain trapped?
Will you choose the mystery over the known, despite the horror of what you are aware of?
Will you escape with immediacy, and trust that the surrounding world has something for you?
Underlying the idea of a crashed train are undertones richly satisfying in a reality that galvanizes us all.
The opening song to the album is called February 8th 1878 and it introduces us to the disaster.
February 8th, 1878 South of Trout Creek, west of Cedar Lake On a winding mountain trail of the North Pacific Union Rail The snow arrived on time, the circus train was running late Rip spot’s past and all the knuckles worn, Firebox bursting to the running boards A pounding in his chest, crushing like a cider press The hogger rode the throttle ‘round the bender like a flank-strapped horse
This paints an image for the listener, an image of the train befalling a terrible tragedy. Yet what is exposed throughout the following ten tracks is a specific aspect of the human consciousness, overflowing with religion, ambition, and frustration.
Each song represents a different animal. Each takes a varying approach to the decision burrowing itself in us all- what is life and how do you go through it?
The leader of the animals is the elephant. As penned in the opening song:
My tusks are dull, my eyes, half-blind,
too old to run, too big to hide,
and have neither friend nor enemy, nor that phantom, ‘self’-identity nor concern for what ‘they’ll’ do to ‘me’ now, my children, run free!
The leader favors freedom for the people, ahem, animals. It is whether they choose this that matters.
So is Jesus Christ an elephant? Am I a lion or a walrus, and are you a fox?
These are the questions we come to ask ourselves as we explore the lyrics of ‘Ten Stories.’ Musically, who writes an album in the perspective of a slew of circus animals? And who attempts to spin these animals with deep thematic elements based on the reality of everyday life, while also maintaining quality songwriting? A giant step forward musically, and a melding of all the best styles of a previous career catalog; MewithoutYou does just that. We couldn’t be happier.
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.