I saw Nine Inch Nails twice in 2009; once at the Jones Beach Amphitheater, and another time at Terminal 5. Mew opened for Nine Inch Nails at the Terminal 5 show, and they were an entirely enjoyable opening band if not a strange warm-up for Nine Inch Nails. I had no idea who Mew was, and I still don’t know much about them – but apparently they were around in the 90’s and so I’m going to go see what their debut album “Triumph For Man” (1997) is all about.
At first, Mew was not doing much for me. Lead singer Jonas Bjerre has a lovely, soft-spoken voice that is muffled out in the first three songs on the album by guitar parts that weren’t blowing me away. I was starting to wonder what the deal with Mew was, until the fourth track “Panda” started to show the band’s true colors. Bjerre’s voice starts to sound high-pitched and childlike in a way that I can really get behind, and the guitar parts divert a bit from their strictly alt-rock ways about halfway through the song, becoming dissonant and stress-inducing. From “Panda” until the closing track “Coffee Break”, Mew’s “Triumph For Man” continues to be an interesting listen.
“Then I Run” got a little scream-ier than I thought Mew would get, “No Shadow Kick” is a funky little track with gibberish lyrics (no, that’s not Danish), “Snowflake” has beautiful string and piano arrangements, and “Pink Monster” is forty-nine seconds of accordion. Tracks four through fourteen entirely make up for any of the first three songs’ shortcomings; and tracks like “I Should Have Been A Tsin-Tsi For You” and “Web” prove that Mew has what it takes to make memorable tracks out of formulaic alt-rock ingredients.
“Triumph For Man” is a pretty solid album, judging from my first-listen gut-feeling. If you can find this album somewhere, it’s worth listening to.