- Tuesday, March 01, 2005
And it is an interesting journey for sure, opening richly with the majestic "We're So Far Away," accompanied by Rob Sweitzer's beautiful piano and setting the stage to unfold into something bigger. It's laced with longing and homesickness, leading into the powerful Smashing Pumpkins-styled guitar strains of "Someone Else's Arms," which expresses a desire to awaken from dull existence. The longing becomes a nagging desire to act on it ("Suspension") and break free ("This Is the Countdown"). "Painless" delves into Ecclesiastes by filling that desire with things that numb, not satisfy: "All these reckless nights have left me spinning out of control/Is there not a cure for sorrow?/All these fading lights mislead me, search for something more/Will there be a new tomorrow?"
Which brings us to "The Ocean," a calming alt-pop ballad and a definitive spiritual turning point that wrestles with "what I feel and what I'm told" in the pursuit of meaning. What follows seems to be a pair of songs born out of regret—"Breakdown" reflects on a potentially sweet relationship damaged by pessimism, while "Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" seems to be a lament over an abortion or a miscarriage. The artwork and lyrics for "Cover Me" suggest a crossroads, making a decision that grants freedom from sadness and emptiness.
That choice leads to the glorious title track, where "there's a neon light inside that shines, and tearing down the walls in the way … bright enough to save the weakest ones." There's joy in this light, as expressed in "Ready and Waiting to Fall"—" I've never been more perfect being alive/I've never been so satisfied/I could feel something different for the first time/Heaven made sense and all the words rhymed." The album concludes with further jubilation ("Anything") and then with a gentle song of surrender ("The Sun and the Moon").
If I sound abstract in summarizing the album's journey, it's intentional. The band's management is emphatic in saying that Mae is not a "Christian band," and that the personal beliefs of the members are private. But there's enough here and in interviews to suggest where the band is coming from spiritually—like other spiritually inclined bands targeting a broader audience, they're uncomfortable with marketing faith, opting to let listeners make up their own minds concerning the music.
Thus, the album fits the model faith journey of longing and fulfillment, and that's perfectly acceptable to an extent—so long as listeners know that it falls just short of filling in the blanks and defining the who's and what's. An exceptionally well-made album that succeeds as the sum of its parts,
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