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Danish band Mew has always been known for making 'big' music that's not necessarily easy to categorise. Mew have never been subtle in their music; they've consistently made use of multiple guitar layers, anthemic melodies and left barely any space left untouched by sound in their songs. This has led them to be filed under either shoegaze or prog - two of music's most extravagant genres - although neither really fits their own peculiar grandeur. By giving their albums garishly unique covers and even giving a full four-line poem as the title of their last LP only furthered their reputation as a band of no half-measures. Now after 6 years of relative silence they've returned with +-; an uncharacteristically diminutively titled album, does the music held within follow suit?

From the opening minutes of lead single 'Satellites' the answer is a resounding "no"; finger plucked guitar and atmospherics are soon joined by Jonas Bjerre's unmistakable reverbed falsetto, which swiftly leads to percussion and electric guitar taking their bows and expertly the song is fleshed out into the stadium rock majesty that the band's made their own over their careers. Over the course of the album's hour-long run time we're taken through an assortment of brightly coloured anthems, each possessing grandiose choruses, several break downs to build up the emotional element, and final furors of victorious or crushing conclusions. It would be unfair and disingenuous to Mew to say that each song follows a template, but the band have become so proficient at producing affirming, soaring pop-rock music that it's easy to forget just how much is going on in each track.

This might also be because you're so often hooked into listening to Bjerre's inimitable voice. It's his glistening falsetto that guides the listener through these complex and oft-splendid compositions. Even when you don't know what he's singing, his vocal melodies soar in and out of the instrumentation in such an organic way that your attention is attached to it. It's also important to monitor Bjerre's vocal tone to really understand the emotion in the songs. The instrumentation is uniformly rich, bright and impressive so it's easy to mistake them all for happy songs, but Bjerre's vocal contribution makes them much more human and personable. The album's two biggest highlights come in the form of its most wistful songs, namely 'Clinging To A Bad Dream' and 'Water Slides'. 'Bad Dream' would easily slide past as a mid-album tempo builder for anyone not paying close attention, but the simplistic chorus of "I know, I know, it's difficult" gives it a cutting edge that's later compounded by a delicately heartfelt coda. 'Water Slides' is a real wolf-in-sheeps'-clothing as its expansive chorus has it surely pegged to be a festival favourite, but a closer look at the lyrics reveal that it's a worried tribute to a friend they might "find lying on the bathroom floor." In both instances it's the unique earnestness in Bjerre's voice that clues the listener into the emotion and turns the monolithic music into something truly passionate.

+- ends with two of Mew's longest ever songs ('Rows' being their first to top 10 minutes) that combine to nearly a third of the album's hour. Sadly, this is where the album falls down somewhat. Their approach to these songs is just the same as any others and features all the same engrossing elements, but to pile on all of this into continual rises and falls of emotion for such an extended period becomes exhausting. Both songs are perfectly good and match up to the quality of most of the album, but could have easily been pared back to a more manageable 4-5 minutes like the rest of the album's highlights. It's also possible that these tracks seemingly fall afoul of their length purely by being awkwardly sandwiched together at the very end.

I said at the top that Mew have never been easy to categorise and they certainly don't compromise, and +- is just further proof of that. Even though Mew have been away for 6 years, their identity and vision is as strong as ever. They seem to have more belief in the boldness of their sound, and that can only bode well for them and any who are willing to along with them on their journey forward.

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