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Culture Reviews
By Matt Siegel
I’ll never forget where I was the first time I heard Danish indie sweethearts Mew: we were visiting St. Petersburg for the weekend, staying with a photographer friend, whose high ceilings and arched-doorways after eight months in Moscow’s cramped abodes seemed positively palatial, hung over on a Saturday afternoon. The incomparable Valentina, whose singular mission it was to bring Mew for last Friday’s show at 35mm, opened up her Powerbook and let fly “The Zookeeper’s Boy,” which opens with lead singer Jonas “the reason no other guy in the room is getting laid tonight” Bjerre intoning in a perilously high falsetto: “Are you my lady?” As his words tumbled out of the speakers I remember being struck with exactly the same thoughts as when watching Mew on 35mm’s big stage last Friday: “This is either the absolute worst or best band I’ve ever heard.” Frankly, I still haven’t managed to sort it out.

Hailing from Denmark, Mew’s blend of indie and stadium rock (with a prog twist thrown in for good measure) first propelled them to Danish stardom with 2003’s “Frengers,” which went on to net them “Album Of The Year” and “Band Of The Year” honors at the 2003 Danish Music Critics Award Show (that resplendently creative title just goes to show why critics critique and artists create. Good one, guys). Since then they’ve set upon the music world like the kind of finely tuned war machine we’ve all come to expect from the Danish people. 2005’s “And The Glass Handed Kites,” though not as well received by critics as their previous work, propelled them to Europe-wide stardom on the strength of their singles “Apocolypso,” and the aforementioned “Zoo-Keeper’s Daughter,” earning them “buzz-worthy” status on MTV Asia. The culmination of their diligence was being chosen as the opening act for REM’s last European tour.

So, what is it about Mew that people find so interesting? Well, for starters you simply cannot overlook lead singer Bjerre’s looks (think David Cassidy circa 1974, but with a hipster-transfusion to displace the syrupy pap), but placing too much emphasis on them would, unfortunately for those of us with imperfect hair and skin (damn you sweet, sweet chocolate!), be an oversimplification. The band’s live set is tight as an oil-drum, their unique sound based around Bjerre’s sui generis intonation bound to a sturdy rhythm section. As they pounded through their lively set, mined primarily from their previous two long-players, they were accompanied by a live video performance as skillful and absorbing as it was disturbing. Cats in Sgt. Peppers jackets marched through fields playing violins. A wild-eyed assortment of rejects from a nightmarish version of an Animal Planet Halloween special, all sporting the superimposed faces of the band members, sang along to the music in perfect sync. In perhaps the most upsetting concert going experience of the season, some type of variegated fleshy meat-blob with a blood blister and pseudo-mouth floated about in the ether of a starry night, soon after to migrate into the nightmares of Moscow’s hipster elite. To make matters worse for those of us lacking in self-confidence, Bjerre, a professional artist, produced the video-montage. But I write for a hit website and magazine, so I’m not sweating it either.

Mew simply is not a band that someone else can recommend for you, but rather one that must be experienced and then evaluated on a personal basis. I can say that they are definitely worth evaluating, because as clearly displayed on Friday night, those that love Mew absolutely love them. They have that rare thing that makes me suspect you’ll want to catch them in a small club while you can, because they won’t be playing them for very much longer. But if you’re easily disturbed I have one recommendation: keep your eyes closed.

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