Mew

Eggs Are Funny

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Here go Mew again, with a characteristically ineffable album cover and a suitably absurdist title to accompany it. One might think it was the latest piece of studio wizardry from the brilliantly off-kilter Danish group, but it is, in fact, ostensibly a best-of collection. It's hard to say what the impetus is for a band like Mew -- whose albums are each so uniformly crafted as a whole -- to come out with a set like this, but as it turns out, it's not entirely unwarranted. After all, the band had a three-album run before they released the more widely heard And the Glass Handed Kites, and it's reasonable to believe the casual fan would not have heard a lot of their earlier material. This gives Mew a tough decision to make: do they objectively release a best of-collection that features their best work, weighted heavily toward their two most recent records, or do they focus upon the lesser-known material? As it turns out, Eggs is a bit of both: they prominently feature their most recent and probably overall strongest record No More Stories alongside some stronger cuts from their earlier years ("Wheels Over Me," "156"). Of course, given Mew's nature, the track list and sequencing decisions are really going to make or break such a collection, and luckily the set features a perfect choice of opener in "Am I Wry? No," a band favorite that's bounced around on singles, EPs,and two of those early records. In eschewing chronological organization and extricating the songs from their former connectedness, Eggs Are Funny sounds a bit disorienting, but for those thoroughly familiar with their recent output, it's a pleasant surprise to hear the band's formative moments erratically sprinkled in along with the requisite new track ("Do You Love It?"). It's also nice to get a version of the band's signature "The Zookeeper's Boy" in mixtape-ready form, with an extended intro in place of the previously disjointed track cut. It's been pointed out before that Mew can sound like a bizarrely skewed transmission from the overly emotive years of '90s rock radio, nowhere more true than on the almost enjoyably maudlin "She Came Home for Christmas" from the band's 1997 debut. More often, Mew have been labeled "prog" due to their wide-ranging atmospheric tendencies and penchant for elaborate song structures, but there's a disarmingly intimate tenderness to the band's toweringly complex melodies that transcends categorization. Instead of putting an over-emphasis on technicality, or the distance that their at times glacial sonic tone might outwardly summon, those elements are merely part of the overall construct that also features a whole lot of potent emotion. While huge in Europe, Mew enjoy a more tenuous appreciation in the U.S., where their mysterious, ethereal quality keeps them well out of the mainstream. It's hard to imagine this set as anything more than reinforcement for fans already on board, but a justification for the existence of Eggs Are Funny may be that it serves as an excellent one-disc testament to Mew's immutably novel foothold. The band has joined the collective of eminent Scandinavian pop masterminds who -- from Max Martin to Annie to Dungen -- contribute to one of the most consistently engaging musical palettes found in 21st century music.

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