Saturday, November 4, 2006

Mew Drops on the Bowery

Caught Mew at Bowery Ballroom last night. (Still, hands down, my favorite place to see a show in the City. Just the right size, with the most phenomenal of acoustics.) I paid 30 bucks to see them -- nearly twice face value -- when I could've seen them as a throw-in during the Bloc Party/Secret Machines show at McCarran Park Pool over the summer. I had looked them up briefly before that show and found them to be interesting, but not quite interesting enough to trek out to Brooklyn in the mid-afternoon. So, I missed them.

I didn't come upon them again until a week ago when I was browsing about the Celebrity Playlists on iTunes. That's probably one of the best features of iTunes. It's fascinating what sort of music the famous listen to. Much of it is predictably pedestrian. But, every now and then, you come upon something unexpected, like Samuel L. Jackson listing "Wake Up" by Aracde Fire among his favorites. Or Maria Sharapova being a fan of Imogen Heap and Frou Frou. The best moments are when a Celebrity Playlist helps you discover something good. Like when I clicked on O.K. Go's playlist (of all things) and got re-acquainted with Mew.

So, the show starts, and the drummer emerges alone. He plays with a tight, concussive cadence as the lead guitarist nonchalantly strolls on stage and picks away. Next come the bassist and keyboard player. Then, the cherubic lead signer appears. He has a rather fragile, delicate look about him, which seemed quite fitting given the soaring, soprano-like notes emitted by his vocal chords. (Before I saw them, I was sure that Mew had at least one female vocalist. They have none.)

I've described Mew as reminiscent of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. Last night, as I heard and saw them live, thoughts of Pale Saints and Lush also came to mind. But it's not that Mew sounds like one of those bands during a song and another during the next. It's that Mew sounds like a strange brew of all those bands in a jam session. Airy falsetto vocals; discordant, effects-laden guitar riffs; elongated synthesiser swirls; subdued bass lines; bombastic percussion -- it all sounds gorgeously symphonic, if not operatic. But just as you almost begin to fall into a lull because of the sway-inducing harmonies, Mew delivers one sonic punch after another to remind you that you're not at Lincoln Center.

Oh, and they're Danish, too -- just like Figurines. Such beautiful music those Scandinavians make.