The song “The Zookeeper’s Boy,” having already been released in Europe where it became a huge radio hit, and having garnered enough pre-buzz here in the states to merit various reviews of the import album, is so good, I can picture it transcending even pop music:
“Man this song is great! Whose song is this?”
“Those guys who did `Time is Running Out?'”
“No, that’s Muse.”
“That’s what I said.”
“I said the song was Mew’s.”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“No, it’s Mew’s.”
“Who sings this song?”
“It’s definitely not the Who…”
You can see where I’m going with this. Danish prog-pop band Mew already had two successful albums in their home country, yet no one had heard of them until Columbia picked up the band and released Frengers, an encapsulation of the best songs from the first two efforts. Even then, Frengers didn’t set the world on fire. Well, get out your extinguishers and ready the tanker trucks, because here comes the stateside release, finally, of And the Glass Handed Kites!
Prog rock has never been as fashionable past its prime than right now. Radiohead, the Mars Volta, and the aforementioned band that is sure to garner some confusion, Muse, have all dabbled with the spacey concept art, yet no one takes it to the heights of pop accessibility better than Mew. Songs flow into one another effortlessly, and genres blend into the prog stew like spices in chili. Flavors of disco, new wave, hard rock and others can be plucked out at random, yet all find their way seamlessly into harmony with the jazzy mix. Every song is another pearl, waiting to be discovered thanks to the vocal delicacy of Jonas Bjerre. His falsetto recalls that of Sigur Rós’ Jón Birgisson, ethereal and otherworldly, as if we were listening not to bands from Denmark and Iceland, but instead to bands from some distant planet, having been drawn to earth by the sounds of Radiohead.
The true highlight of this magnificent record though is its centerpiece triptych of songs, “Apocalypso,” “Special” and the crown jewel, “The Zookeeper’s Boy.” The first chugs along with meaty guitar riffs and the memorable repetition of the word, “care-lines.” The second thumps with a Peter Hook-y bass and creates a new genre I’d like to call `prosco,’ a combo of prog and disco. `Dog’ just doesn’t sound as good and would be somewhat confusing. The last song, sure to be just as big a hit on the indie circuit as it was in Europe, is overlapping harmonies, deconstructed then rebuilt rhythms, and glorious pomp and circumstance. When I finally write a screenplay, this is the song I want playing over the trailer during the tearjerking montage. Hey, I said the same thing about a Sigur Rós song and wouldn’t you know it, it’s being used for the Children of Men trailer. (Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work?)
As always, it seems that the Europeans hoard their truly great music for months before letting us have a taste. It’s been almost a year since Kites was released overseas and here we are eating up table scraps. In the case of Mew it really doesn’t matter when you finally get around to hearing it to know its power and magnificence. It would be the equivalent of having fresh turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving. You know its leftovers, but I’ll be damned if those sammies aren’t what some of us look forward to most of all. Kites is also finally bringing Mew to the states for some lucky people to see as they tour with Bloc Party and the Secret Machines. Give the song a few plays on US radio and a few months and you might be seeing that bill the other way around.