MUTEMATH – [Album]

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sophomore albums are hard to please. You hear a debut album and decide if you are a fan or not. And then for the second release, you half expect the same style and sound just with a fresher vibe. MUTEMATH really took a drastic approach with Armistice and changed up what we thought would be the natural progression of things. After the initial surprise, Armistice is still experimental in the way that they combine eight different genres, but sounds a little repetitive and commercially forced in a few of the songs.
Apparently, MUTEMATH almost broke up before they finished a second release. After touring for a few years and coming up with 16 songs along the way, the guys felt tension building as they tried to organize the daunting task of putting an album together. They teamed up with producer, Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello, The Hives), to only throw away everything they had worked on and started fresh with 12 new songs. With a new-found sense of mind, the band cranked out the material within a mere few months.
The first song is “The Nerve,” which incorporates an electronic funky combination that sounds awesome in the first 30 seconds, then it is rudely interrupted with an abrupt shouting of “Set it on fire! Set it on fire!” I would rather do without the whole pumped-up screaming thing with this group. Vocalist Paul Meany has a truly harmonic, beautiful and spellbinding voice and this song only does half the justice on his talent. I think “The Nerve” is one of those songs that would be best performed live to a pyromaniac crowd.
Next up is “Backfire,” which has a very trip-hop sampling mixed with soulful vocals, but still very poppy and Maroon 5ish. The chorus is catchy and has a radio mass appeal to it. The dreamy and echoic bridge of the song reminds me much of the past MUTEMATH album and then switches back to a bass-induced Top 40 backdrop before I got too excited.
Alright, here we go: “Clipping” is what we all know and love and want from this quartet. The pulsating beat coupled with Meany’s dreary vocals give chills in the intro. And when an intricate piano layers in it takes over for a worthy praise. An edgy quality remains with this somewhat softer song because of appeasing accompaniment that grows stronger throughout the song. There is a break of eerie strings that becomes chaotic and climatic to “Anymore—I don’t know who to fight anymore—I don’t know what is right anymore.”
“Spotlight” was released in November last year for the soundtrack of Twilight and was a part of the Spotlight EP released digitally in February. An “other-worldly” sound is a perfect match for vampires love and undying non-garlic romance. The fast upbeat clapable tempo and rocking electric back up would be a good one live as well. The ambience and heavy percussion action show a good example of MUTEMATH’s broad range of technique.
Meany’s vocals in “No Response” is very much reminiscent of any Pinback song. The light and breezy chorus gives way to layers of piano and dreamy synths. Lyrically, this song is the best on of the album.
Somber “Pins and Needles” gives off an impression of a jazz club atmosphere with the percussion lightly taking it away to a simplistic Meany roaring the realization that “I’m one of them.” Good song for contemplating life and chain-smoking late at night with a comfortable buzz.
“Goodbye” has an upbeat and faster tempo than what you would expect with a song title like that. The somewhat generic lyrics repeat over and over until it may be too much. It is a little more composition than needed and the ending of the song, it really gets nauseating. Unless you like; “If you say goodbye. If you say goodbye. If you say goodbye,” repeated 20 times.
“Electrify” is a good song title, right? I got excited for a second. But, unless you’re in the mood for Justin Timberlake, you may grit your teeth once more. A pop and dancey song, it gets worse with the lyrics like, “I’ll be ready when she calls. I hope someday she might go too far..go..too..far…Take me home and loose control.” I really don’t want MUTEMATH to be sexy. Good looking guys and everything, but please don’t. The icing on the cake was “I feel it in my bones” in repeated variations.
I’m almost loosing hope at this point. “Armistice” is not horrible, but not awesome. This song is completely and vocally exact to Maroon 5. A trumpet gleams through the chorus to add an interesting vibe to say the least.
All is forgiven with “Lost Year.” A piano-induced ballad starts out slow with strings but then transitions to the lyrics, “Nothing’s a breeze/We suffer/We bleed/for two hearts to beat as one.” Here is a song we can appreciate vocally and lyrically.
Now for the last song, MUTEMATH has experimented with an impressive nine-minute long opus called “Burden.” A Modest Mouse-sounding electric guitar looped back beat intro gives this guitar-driven song a distorted in-between focus in the beginning. It’s hard to put words on an experimental track like this one because it incorporates so much. Including a little guitar solo that breaks into what may be a mental breakdown with the repeated pleading of, “I just can’t hold it together.” This goes into another break of instrumentation that sounds like Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief combined with an Interpol guitar hook that transitions into an echoed vocals and a simple slowed-down piano. The tempo drops down for a moment before turning into a melodic collapse. Symphonic strings layer into sampling that is quite astonishing. The song ends with a chaotic blend of every instrument in the book to create a static oblivion. A drum solo pounds around the last few seconds with no goodbye lyrically. A unique listen that makes nine minutes go by too fast.
Armistice is defined as a truce, an ending or peace from fighting. But, even with a completely different mindset, it deserves a chance. Especially check out “Clipping,” “Burden,” “Pins and Needles” and “Lost Year.” Just remember to keep an open mind. It is not the band you knew in 2006. With a handful of tracks that are iPod worthy, MUTEMATH continues to surprise us.
Armistice is out now — [Buy it on]


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