Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, an avatar and advocate of individualism, alienation and despair, and a depressive (largely due to a tragic love-life) but unusually pithy and poetic example of his profession, once wrote: "At the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference." During a tricky journey through London's bomb-crippled transport system to the ICA, with passengers giving each other swivel-eyed, "which side are you on?" glances, I ponder this, and wonder what he'd have made of it all.
Twenty first-century Danish rock band Mew first emerged in the early Noughties with a single (the enchanting "Am I Wry? No") and an album Frengers (an invented word meaning a combination of "friends" and "strangers"). This, combined with their kittenish name, their second-language grasp of English ("Farrah, now that you're here/ Can you tell me exactly how I should have done?") and a sparkling sound which I described at the time as "an indie A-ha" just made you want to go awww.
They've toughened up in the last three years. Oh, the old material - "Comforting Sounds" (frontman Jonas Bjerre, pictured, singing the opening line "I don't feel all right..." in that high, clear, pure voice), and "She Came Home For Christmas" (one of the saddest seasonal songs since the days of Darlene Love) - still melts your heart. And they haven't exactly turned into Motorhead. But new single "Apocalypso", with Bo Madsen's guitars whacked up high in the mix, has the dense, intense drama of prime Afghan Whigs, and despite its title, the mood is more Aarhus than Antigua, more existential than exuberant.
The language barrier might explain Mew's lack of projected charisma (little more than a cursory "It's nice to be in London again"), but it can't excuse the complete absence of thought given to entertaining the eyes (we're talking plain blue shirts, nondescript shaggy hair, and a white sheet as a backdrop).
No matter. As a taster for the next album, this low-key show will do nicely. If "Apocalypso" is any guide, Mew's follow-up to Frengers may not be the best Danish album of 2005 (the mighty Raveonettes already have that one sewn up with Pretty in Black), but it will be well worth a listen.
Walking back down the Mall, facing transport hell in reverse (life, as Soren famously said, can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forward), with the dazzling, vertiginous, heart-racing romance of "Am I Wry? No" still ringing in my head, I think of another Kierkegaard dictum - "anxiety is the dizziness of freedom" - and I wonder what he'd have made of Mew.
It's just a hunch, but I like to think he would understand.Reuse content