Ten Stories by mewithoutYou (Pine Street Collection, 2012. 40 minutes)
mewithoutYou is an American rock band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The band includes Aaron Weiss (vocals), Michael Weiss (guitar), and Rickie Mazzotta (drums) with a carousel of supporting musicians. mewithoutYou signed with Tooth and Nail Records releasing their first four records with the label. Ten Stories is self-released and offers a return to the band’s earlier sound.
“All circles presuppose they’ll end where they begin, but in their leaving can they ever come back round.” – Aaron Weiss adapted from Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.
Looking back on the music that defined my teen years, not much of it carried staying power. I liked ska, but the genre died in 1995. Punk rock had energy, but the lyrics are pointless and I have nothing to angst against. Hardcore and Metal, for the most part, exist as a medium by which talented musicians prove their worth; I don’t want to listen to their unending quest for technical superiority.
Of the bands in my teenage years, mewithoutYou is the only one sticking around. While my teenage-self rocked to energetic music caring little about the lyrical content, the rich narratives penned by Aaron Weiss supplement my current passion for the band.
In truth, Aaron Weiss has always been narrative-heavy. In fact, my first introduction to the band emerged from the most interesting band blog post I’ve ever read.
To be concise, mewithoutYou—a Philadelphia-based band—played a show in Baltimore. Ever seeking introspective solitude, Aaron urged the band to depart for Philadelphia without him—he wanted to walk home. What ensued was a half-hilarious, half-existential account of this singer’s 3 day hike back home.
I’ve been a fan ever since.
With Ten Stories, we find mewithoutYou flourishing underneath rich lyrical stories. The album’s opener, “February, 1878”—an inside joke since the band has a song titled, “January, 1979”—depicts a horrific circus train crash.
“February 8th, 1878 south of Trout Creek west of Cedar Lake on a winding mountain trail of the North Pacific Union Rail, the snow arrived on time the circus train was running late rip spot’s past and all the knuckles worn firebox bursting to the running boards a pounding in his chest crushing like a cider press the Hogger rode the throttle round the bender like a flank-strapped horse”
Some animals flee in the melee; some remain in the opened cages, afraid of change.
The rest of the album, then, tells the stories of these escaped animals.
While the animals experience a wide spectrum of life, my favorite tracks are “Aubergine” and “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume”.
Literally, a love song between a labrador and an aubergine, “Aubergine” also unveils the inner fears of Weiss.
“Sugar down the syrup in the Queen Anne’s lace shining in the light of the nightshade cultivating unsophistication in my face trying to think of nothing to say / grapes gone sour and the spinach went to seed (it was spindly and sick from the outset) / waiting for the hour with the wherewithal to leave, patient as a dog for its master. / The Labrador was locked to the promontory rocks, she called down ‘time is an illusion.’ / An inconsequential shift as the continents drift but my confidence was crushed and I miss you regardless.”
While certainly ethereal, such pointed observations can only exist with experience. I can certainly relate to waiting with the wherewithal to leave.
Additionally, “Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume” provides a sublime example of Weiss’ brilliance:
“FOX: Provisionally, ‘I’ practically alive mistook signs for signified and so since have often tried to run them off the cliff like Gadarene swine and tied my though-ropes in anchor bends wondering whether we were someone better, then, or maybe just better able to pretend (and what better means to our inevitable end! BEAR: No, I don’t know if I know, though some with certainty insist ‘no certainty exists’ well I’m certain enough of this: In the past 14 years, there’s only one girl I’ve kissed”
“Provisionally ‘I’” and a “provisionally ‘you’” from later in the song emerge from existentialist thinker Martin Buber. The “I” and “You” only have meaning in relationship with each other. Yet, at the same time, we are individuals. We aren’t “I” unless there are others in relationship with us, but, only as an individual can we even consider the idea of “I”.
Weiss’ mention of Gadarene swine paints a vivid metaphor. Weiss is referring to the story in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a man and into a drove of pigs sending them careening of a cliff to their demise.
Weiss unlocks a classic philosophical fallacy when he states, “some with certainty insist ‘no certainty exists’”. Any collegiate level course on epistemology will communicate the difficulty of finding certainty. Blame it on Descartes but we can never find conclusive proof for any claim. Yet, to state with certainty that we can’t find certainty is a fallacy. We can only talk in terms of what is most likely to be true.
With Ten Stories, mewithoutYou has come full circle in connection to my listening experience. While as a teenager I focused almost exclusively on the music, my journey led me away from the band as I grew and expanded my tastes. But like any circle, progress brings me back round again as I find enlightenment in another aspect of the band’s sound—namely, the lyrics.
mewithoutYou is not for everyone. If you need a beautiful singing voice or sweetly tuned instruments, I suggest you steer clear. But, if your sweet spot in music surrounds brilliantly deep lyrics, give Ten Stories a listen.
Verdict: 4 out of 5