For nearly two decades now, fans have been drawn to the raw creative energy of Philadelphia rock outfit mewithoutYou. Using a spiritual, meditative flavor of punk that incorporates freestyle instrumentation and spoken-word vocals, the band made a name for themselves with their oblique, metaphysical storytelling. Their latest studio album, simply dubbed [Untitled] (not to be confused with the band’s [untitled] EP out earlier this year), continues the trajectory, manifesting in a panoramic collage of every artistic avenue the band has explored thus far.
There’s always been prominent soul and wit in Aaron Weiss’s avant garde lyricism, crafting sprawling narratives through interconnected vignettes. And here, that involved mythology serves to control the emotional progression of the album. [Untitled] begins with an unfettered rage and then finds a calm in the album’s centerpiece, with dense, unhurried tracks like “Tortoises All the Way Down” and “2,459” slowing down the pace and affording the audience a chance to digest the record’s thesis. Then, in the back half, the tales lean back into the anger, as impassioned numbers like “Wendy & Betsy” and “New Wine, New Skins” bubble and boil over after relatively reserved beginnings.
Still, mewithoutYou’s chief selling point continues to be their experimental, textured instrumentation. Although every player contributes to the overall harmony of the piece, each of them finds bizarre and intriguing avenues to explore on their own. The band in constantly toying with the idea of song structure, and even tracks that appear rather orthodox at first (like vicious opener and album standout “9:27a.m., 7/29”) twist and contort until they become something altogether new. Other times, it feels as though we are witnessing an intimate rehearsal, as on the extended, atmospheric jam session “Flee, Thou Matadors!”
While the band has always worn a wide variety of influences on their sleeves, with [Untitled], they take their intertextuality even further. They directly quote easily recognizable properties, repurposing familiar titles of gospel hymns (“Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”) and classic rock anthems (“Break on Through (To the Other Side) [Pt. 2]”). It’s in these spirited nods where Weiss truly explores his place in the creative arts: “Have I established a pattern? / Perhaps a bi-annual mental collapse? / Someday I’ll find me.”
[Untitled] finds mewithoutYou in the midst of renovation. They’ve labored over their previous releases, building up the sturdiest aspects of what has always made them unique and polished those areas that they found to be lacking. For many artists, a seventh album often brings with it stagnation, but here, it is a sign of true growth.