Published Apr 22, 2015For fans of Mew, the tranquil opening sequence to +- is a bit unsettling. Frengers — Mew's affectionate name for their devotees — want to lose themselves in the comforting sounds of Jonas Bjerre's soft, youthful voice floating over his band's signature ambient guitar and synth wash, but instead of experiencing their usual euphoria, the intro racks Frengers with anxiety in anticipation of the ten new Mew tracks they've waited six years to hear. Luckily, the melancholic sequence at the beginning of +- is soon met by an ominous orchestral-like clash of cymbals and grandiose distortion. Newly returned bassist Johan Wohlert, who contributed greatly to the dark mood on 2005's And the Glass Handed Kites, left the group for 2009's No More Stories to focus on family life, but he returns here to add a pervading darkness throughout.
Still, at least one of the ten tracks seems untouched by Wohlert (and Mew, for that matter); "My Complications" is a brief change to the quartet's formula, due to the decision to have Bloc Party's Russell Lissack co-write the song. The guitar work during the chorus of the upbeat tune isn't at all like Madsen's spacey vibes: it's Brit-pop with a bit of punk attitude. As for Bjerre, he maintains his magical, melodic vocals here, and although "My Complications" isn't as stirring as, say, And the Glass Handed Kite's "Why Are You Looking Grave?," it may prove to be a crossover track that wins the band new fans. Conversely, "Making Friends" has many delights for older fans, such as a riff that imitates the one Madsen plays on No More Stories' "Introducing Palace Players," rendering the song a sort of homage to that album. The only problem with Mew having two near-perfect albums in their repertoire, and a faithful fan base, is that their new album will be judged unfairly against them. Still, give this one time, and it reveals itself. (Play It Again Sam)