Having just 400 words to review this ambitious, multi-layered masterpiece is like having only ten minutes to walk around the Louvre and it’s genuinely hard knowing where to start. Perhaps we should get the criticisms out the way first? I have none. That’s the easy bit done. Now to the hard bit where I need to convey the sheer quality of Mew‘s fifth album, No More Stories… ’cause saying “it’s a bit bloody good” just doesn’t cut it.
Opener ‘New Terrain’ shows off Mew’s slight prog tendencies with what must have been a laboriously difficult recording task. Similar to the back-masking methods which the Beatles made so famous, where hidden messages in the singing are only revealed when songs are played backwards, ‘New Terrain’ reverses this and plays a recorded back-mask forwards. The result of this is a song which drives forward but sounds like its going backwards. This merges into the ‘Introducing Palace Players’, the intro of which sounds like a donkey with broken legs, hobbling along a cobbled dirt track. Just as you wonder if the CD is skipping, the donkey morphs into a thoroughbred and the melody leaps into life with stunning effect. A similar method is used on ‘Repeater Beater’ though the intro here is fleeting and the tune kicks in with more purpose and bass drive.
‘Silas The Magic Car’ is magnificently beautiful. It delicately bounces along, every single second seeped in majestic melody and like the very best novels, where you’ve grown to love the main characters, you feel disappointed when it ends. It’s OK though because ‘Cartoons and Macrame Wounds’ arrives next to envelop you in its slowly building, swirling lullaby.
The lyrics of ‘Hawaii Dream’ are actually the full title of the album, 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. Its sister song, ‘Hawaii’ wakes you from the dream with a gamelan ensemble playing a calypso beat which morphs at the half way point as Jonas’s crystal voice soars, once again, absolutely drenched in melody and harmony.
‘Vaccine’, ‘Tricks’, ‘Reprise’ and the two ‘Intermezzo’ tracks are all worthy of further description but I only have one minute left and I’ve not looked at the Mona Lisa yet. ‘Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy’ almost sounds messy to start with but Mew manage to sound wonderful even when they’re trying to sound chaotic. Things calm down again as the penultimate track opens up and it really does blossom with an up tempo, piano led chorus which merges into a schoolyard singalong.
If, come the end of the year, No More Stories is not sitting atop my best album of ’09 list, my gob will be well and truly smacked. It’s the best album I’ve heard in a very long time and I implore you to go and buy it this very second.