Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Mew – Introducing Palace Players

A big hit in Denmark…


Alex Wisgard: Mew’s 2003 UK debut Frengers remains one of my favourite albums of this decade – a distinctly Scandinavian blend of melody, magic and mayhem – but its bloated follow up (which substituted twists for tunes) left me colder than the fjords. This single sees them back with Rich Costey, the producer behind Frengers, but isn’t quite the return to form you’d hope this reunion would yield. “Introducing Palace Players” doesn’t have the instant thrills (i.e. the fantastic chorus) of a track like “SheSpider” or “Am I Wry? No”; still, as waves of synths back up incongruously angular guitars, there’s a certain glacially subtle charm (and a curious similarity to Alphabeat’s “Boyfriend”, if it were played backwards at 33rpm) that reveals itself over time. Maybe that oddly-titled new album will be worth a listen after all…

Richard Swales: I had a friend at uni who was obsessed with this band but I’d still always managed to ignore them. I actually quite like this though; it starts off all Shellac-ian abstraction and then it grows into a pretty, melodic (if slightly plodding) tune. Still doesn’t make me want to investigate them any further but this is nice enough.

Anthony Miccio: The way the jagged guitar stutters and snakes around the shimmering synth-pop is peculiar enough to make me imagine M83 leading Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band, but that comparison would make this sound a lot more striking, energetic and memorable than it is.

Michaelangelo Matos: For a record that starts out sounding like a creaky Tom Waits knockoff, a surprise: oddly metered guitar, soft Fairlight production, limpid vocal — a Death Cab/Flaming Lips/prog hybrid. I rather admire it: the guitar figure meshes against the vocal in ways that are at times weirdly seductive. Nevertheless, my life is plenty complete without it.

Chuck Eddy: The music could afford to be proggier (not to mention rockier), but its initital random awkwardness picks up beauty and traction when the gender-indeterminate singing finally starts. As Denmarkian art-rock goes, no Savage Rose or Gasolin’. But comforting, somehow.

Peter Parrish: I don’t think parts of this track have ever met before. Due to some curious instrumental timing decisions (or something), the percussion initially sounds as if it’s trying to catch up to the rest of the song, like a small child reluctantly being taken on a long stroll. Then it’s the halting guitar line’s turn to perform odd twists en route to the agreed destination. But something about these deliberate anti-hooks is quite appealing.

Martin Kavka: More than their biggest not-quite-hit single “Special,” this shows that the benefits of slight tweaks to pop formulae — in time signature, vocal mixing, and verse-chorus structure — are substantial. Might this be indie that even Skidmore could respect?

Martin Skidmore: This reminds me of indie acts on Ron Johnson Records in the ’80s (some of whom I liked a lot), with its deliberately awkward, uneven beats. They layer almost Green Gartsidesque singing on top of that, which sounds like two different acts trying to rehearse in the same studio, and not in a good “Walk This Way” way.

Ian Mathers: The reason this works and something like, say, Micachu didn’t is probably down to the fact that Mew were originally a lushly poppy neo-shoegaze act. So while the opening is disjointed as all hell, they not only make it compelling in its own right, once the rest of the song kicks in that disjointed backing makes perfect sense, and even adds a level of interest to the singing and synths that make up much of “Introducing Palace Players.” The song even has a chorus – a low key one, but one that makes that initially random-seeming guitar and drum interplay a vital part of its charm. Also, Jonas Bjerre has a much more pleasant voice than most people making this kind of music.

Rodney J. Greene: The tangle of drumbeats and guitars takes forever to cohere and always feels just slightly off even afterward. By the end, I realized it is not sloppy, but in fact showy, as if Mew want to demonstrate of the strongest perception of arrhythmia they can create without things disintegrating. It turns into an MGMT song somewhere in between.

Edward Okulicz: As prog as you need, as pretentious as you fear and pretty entertaining along with it. As much as I miss the wide-eyed, panoramic bleak but uplifting beauty of their earlier work and wish this song would get going a bit more quickly, something about this just chimes so agreeably in a way few rock bands do.

6 Responses to “Mew – Introducing Palace Players”

  1. It’s no “Comforting Sounds” though, amirite?

  2. Had no idea they even had a song called “Comforting Sounds” when I called their sounds comforting up above. Weird!

    Also curious which Ron Johnson bands Martin S. thinks they sound like. I wish they reminded me of, say, Big Flame or the Ex or the Sewer Zombies (or Bogshed or the Pigbros or Nightingales or Membranes or Meat Whiplash or the Greenhouse Of Terror — were those bands ever on Ron Johnson?) As is, they kind of reminded me more of an inept version of ’70s Genesis or something. Still: very pleasant!

  3. Though, truth be told, I’d probably find most of those bands way to uh “difficult” if I tried to listen to them now. (That’s what happened when I put on the one Ex best-of CD I still own a couple months ago. Fire Engines anthology, on the other hand, proved surprisingly listenable, so who knows.)

  4. “Comforting Sounds” would be an easy 10, definitely.

  5. Sorry, Martin K!

  6. These dudes have the dumbest album title in history, though, which bumps this from an “interesting” [7] to a “I suspect you guys are kinda hateful poseurs” [6].

    (That album title in full: “No More Stories Are Told Today,
    I’m Sorry, They Washed Away,
    No More Stories, The World Is Grey,
    I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away”)