Tag Archives: Mutemath

Armistice – MUTEMATH – 2009


We all like to gloat about how a current hot new artist is in fact an old favourite of ours. You know that an “I knew about them before they were famous” lets some of us have the glow of esoteric knowledge on our faces, and lets some of us get laid too. No? Well, I see people posting a thousand and one wierd artist names on their Facebook and Orkut pages copied verbatim off Wikipedia lists, and I can’t help but scoff. If you are one of them (you know who you are)….damn you’re pathetic.

Anyway, even though I’m positive that very few of you will have heard of Mutemath, I won’t claim them to be either underground or esoteric. What they are though is fresh, new and destined for commercial success. Armistice happens to be their second album (the first is reviewed HERE), and after that one, I’m was happily looking forward to this. These guys have what can broadly be called an Alternative Rock sound, but they have a much more electronica and rhythm section oriented sound  than say, Radiohead. In other words, the guitar player isn’t as forward in the mix as you would normally expect, while the drums and bass (especially drums) occupy a large portion of your headphone space. It’s a unique and pleasant sound.

Very few of you will have heard of Mutemath, but I won’t claim them to be either underground or esoteric.

All this is great, ’cause these guys are musically very accomplished. Non-resolving and unexpected rhythms (“Clipping”, “Backfire”) meld with typical modern rock bass and guitars and soundscapey keyboards. And radio-ready hooks. When I first heard “Spotlight”, I thought it sounded a bit too desparate for some airplay nookie. But that hook is so infectious, that I soon found myself singing along to it. Good shit. And the same thing can be heard all over the album. Thankfully, before I started thinking ‘sell outs’, I was introduced to some of the more esoteric cuts. Stuff like “Odds” and “Pins and Needles”, for instance, will have drummers enjoying the loud drums and mind**** rhythms.

Unlike the first album, which was largely based on bass-hooks, this one has more vocal hooks from singer/keyboardist Paul Meany. I don’t have much to say about him, other than that he writes good lyrics (“The Nerve”, “Clipping” etc.) and has a properly pop-rock voice. Which is all wonderful and great and hunky dory.

Except it’s not.

See, in a commercial, single-oriented band like this, it is de rigeur to have a distinctive voice. It needn’t be pleasant. It needn’t have the range or Robert Plant or even be as sweet as puppy breath. It needs to be distinctive. Is Chris Martin’s singing immediately palatable? Is Noel Gallagher’s voice always smooth and tuneful? Heck, is Atif Aslam ever in key!?  No, but all of them are distinctive. As unfair as it is, unique voices sell in the marketplace, not great bass players or kick-ass drumming (both of which Mutemath has, FYI). So I say, the only thing that is stopping Mutemath from world domination now is a singer with a charismatic voice. It could be eccentric enunciation. It could be hoarseness. It can be done. But they need it quick.

Err....

And that is a pity, because Meany is an excellent frontman, as he is good looking and a charismatic performer to boot. And the whole band has an often chaotic performance style involving breaking stuff, jumping around and playing each other’s instruments. Even their on-stage placement is unique, with them playing side-by-side on stage rather than with the drummer being out back. So as you can see, they have their shit together. Yes, this album has some annoying cuts like “Burden” and “Lost Year”, but that is forgivable for what is still a very young band. Damn, if only Meany’s singing was more unique, this would sound very right.

- El Bajista

All MUTEMATH reviews HERE.

All ALTERNATIVE ROCK reviews HERE.

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Mutemath – MUTEMATH – 2006


Mutemath aren’t your garden variety Alt Rock band. Their back story says so. For one, they are not teenagers, they are close to 30 now, and they are just breaking into the mainstream. Secondly, their founding members aren’t the usual singer-meets-guitarist fare. No, it’s a slightly deranged keyboardist-singer meeting a drummer that started this band. And what a great band this is. It’s full of textures, major hooks, kick-ass basslines (the bassist is a sessions veteran) and some serious drumming. It’s a very different sound than the usual Alt Rock template of straightforward drumming and loads of layers. Of course, there is loads of layering and keyboards on top of keyboards on top of keyboards, but the rhythms are all as forward in the mix as any punk rock recording you can think of. That makes Mutemath quite unique.

Hang on, I think I’ve put the cart before the horse by talking about mixing and shit without talking about the songs themselves. I felt it was important to distinguish them from the rest of Alt Rock. I’m happy to report that I have finally found two Alt Rock bands that I like: this and Muse. And both the names begin with M. Its cosmic, I tell you. Anyway, the lyrics are undistinguished, if well crafted into the grooves on offer. In fact, I think thats a great thing about this band, the phrasing and fitting of lyrics into songs. Just hear the fantastic “Chaos” and “Plan B”. These guys know how to craft songs.

Both Muse and Mutemath begin with M. Its cosmic, I tell you.

And all this is helped along heartily by their pretty energetic live performances, and fairly high production values. Think Portishead’s “Give me a reason” meets Muse‘s “Bliss”, and you begin to get the picture. One of the good side effects of this much attention to the overall sound, is the prevalance of instrumentals. Check out “Reset”, which is quite a kick-ass drum showcase. The guy has feel and technique in spades.

Of course, the album is far from perfect. Sometimes, the techy sounds are annoying, and descend into silliness. And further, the band isn’t yet big enough for us would-be fans to tolerate their indulgence in soundscapes, that too some 14 songs long. But that’s all I can say in criticism. I’d recommend “Chaos”, “Control”, “Typical” and “Collapse” as good tracks to start from. This generally sounds right.

- El Bajista

More MUTEMATH HERE.

More ALTERNATIVE ROCK/GRUNGE/INDIE  reviews HERE.

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