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On the surface, it’s a simple song about a woman. Like most songs about God, it toes that line. It talks about all the things he’s doing to forget about her, suggesting she do the same, and finally resolving that he honestly doesn’t need a thing. It’s Aaron Weiss at his best: a lot of words being flung out very quickly but each one crafted with care toward a greater message or question or consideration.
But, to me, it’s always been a song about God. How he’s my door-without-a-key, my own field-without-a-fence. That any attempt to forget his name and His influence will lead to failing peas or to the trap catching my own leg. With this in mind, Aaron Weiss’s final line of “I do not exist, only You exist” is his act of becoming nothing and refilling with God, becoming a part of God. Which is what the songwriter Weiss has truly tried to do in his personal life. He’s never been a man of materials, and there’s rumors and stories of him living in communes and contracting lyme disease from dumpster diving. He does his best to be as ascetic as possible.
With regards to its simplicity, mewithoutYou has always been built around Aaron Weiss’s words much like Primus is built around Les Claypool’s bass. They’re the featured instruments and so their songs tend to be give those words enough room to fit and to be played with–I’ve seen this band twice and I’ve never heard him sing a song the same.
Within me, this song strikes a deep chord. It came out at just the right time in my life (2006–senior–hopeless romantic–lost poet), and managed to reach deep into my spiritual life and shake it like a misbehaving hoe. This song, combined with John 9, really changed my perspective on what it meant to be human–that I didn’t have to have everything perfectly crafted, that I too was born blind and that God’s purpose will reveal itself one day. One day.
I first heard of Bear vs. Shark from a girlfriend I had years ago. She played them for me as we drove around Barstow Community College. I was instantly hooked. They had the blend of rhythm and screams that I love so much. They’re in the same vein as At the Drive-in and Hot Water Music: super noisy but with a keen ear for solid jams and a songwriter who still crafts his lyrics in spite of the fact that they’re unintelligible most of the time.
The big fat rain cloud over all of this, though, is that they only ever released two albums. It leaves you wanting, dying, for something new while simultaneously finding newness in the work they did release.
I don’t know why I’ve never listened to them, honestly. Ever since I started using Last.FM, they’ve been one of my recommended artists, constantly tied sonically to other bands that I enjoy, but, honestly, they’ve never stuck with me.
When I first got Spotify, I tried to listen to them again and I can remember thinking, “Boy, I don’t know why I don’t listen to them more…” They had a decent thump and their singer sounded kind of like Chuck Ragan.
I enjoyed it and intended to listen to them again but… then I forgot. They sounded cool, but there was just no shrapnel left over when I turned it off. There was nothing that really hooked me or called me to listen to them again.
Then, well, a couple weeks ago I just kind of gave up and put on Sigh No More, trying to get into it. I know that their new album, Babel, just came out this past September, but I’m also a huge proponent of the sophomore slump–not to mention, I figured I should start with the album that garnered them so much acclaim in the first place.
So after listening to this album off and on on repeat for the past two weeks or so, this is what I’ve come up with:
They’re a one trick pony, but it’s a pretty good goddamn trick.
All of their breakdowns, and a lot of their buildup is based around a heavy bass drum and banjo jams. They do this in three of the first four songs, the best of which being “Roll Away Your Stone.” But then listen to “Roll Away Your Stone” next to “Little Lion Man” and you’ll see that the album doesn’t travel very far.
But, again, it’s a good trick. As a result, though, after those four songs or so, you begin to get the sense that you know how the rest of the album is gonna play out–more of the same, and probably another ballad or two.
The only reason I continued listening to them is that I realized that Marcus Mumford is an incredible lyricist who can really spin some gems:
It seems that all my bridges have been burned,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart “Roll Away Your Stone”
Love it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment, a cry
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be “Sigh no More”
Now that I’ve listened to the album a few more times, I think I definitely like it, even though it’s a little repetitive… I think what helps is that I wasn’t listening to the radio while “Little Lion Man” was playing non-stop, too.