January, 1979 saw more than a terrible crash…

Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge ended their genocidal regime in Cambodia, the final Shah of Iran fled to Egypt to live out the remainder of his life in exile, and the US and China began their increasingly complicated international relationship. But fans of Philadelphia art rock band mewithoutYou recognize the month for something much different—the birth of vocalist Aaron Weiss.

Weiss is an interesting character. A Ph.D candidate and adjunct professor of urban education at Temple University in Philadelphia, Weiss is as much a scholar as he is a musician. His lyrics frequently lift from theological and philosophical texts, postmodern literature, and Middle Eastern poetry, all uniquely delivered through a gruff spoken word that seems on the verge of tears. In short, he’s probably smarter than you.

I was first introduced to mewithoutYou through mashup group The Legion of Doom’s controversial Incorporated about five years ago now (damn, time flies). The eighth track is a remix of mewithoutYou’s classic ‘January, 1979’ and an early Underoath song. The track seems forgettable now, but from the moment 14 year old me heard how the line “If I could become the servant of all” contrasted with Underoath’s comparatively tame vocals, I was hooked.

‘January, 1979’ is taken off of mewithoutYou’s sophomore release Catch For Us The Foxes. Foxes is an interesting release in the band’s catalogue, as it marks the final attempt by the band to include a heavy emphasis on a more post-hardcore style. It is also their best album, a perfect blend of the harsher loud-quiet-loud dynamic of [A→B] Life and the whimsical folk of their later releases.

Nearly ten years later and with three more albums following it, Catch For Us The Foxes remains captivating if only because no other record sounds like it. The clash of clean and distorted guitars, droning bass, and reserved drums mixed with a sort of earthy production all combine to create an immediate and fresh sound that still feels honest and real. But at the forefront of the music is Weiss’s uncanny ability to tell a story. His lyrics are unrivaled (one needs only to look at album highlight ‘Carousels’ for proof) in the way they are literary while never approaching pretentious, brimming with emotion while never appearing sentimental, metaphysical and deeply layered without seeming aimless.

Few bands are as rewarding to me as mewithoutYou. No matter how much I return to them, no matter what the release, I always find myself discovering some new meaning to a lyric, a nod to an older track, or that elusive moment where the music seems to extend beyond itself and every note makes perfect sense. Although mewithoutYou have nearly abandoned the sound of their first two releases, Catch For Us The Foxes remains a testament to the band’s ability to create an album that feels as mystical and charming as the animal it takes its name from.