This Mutemath article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Hazel Webster
Mutemath are a one of a kind band. They have worked continuously for the last 13 years, releasing amazing quality albums combining a mix of genres ranging from space rock, indie, grunge, and what they’re most known for – math rock. Their self-titled album released in 2006, was ahead of its time, with fantastic production quality from both Tedd T, and the band themselves; using an intelligent contour within the albums aesthetic mood. ‘Odd Soul’ followed in 2011 showing off their range of texture, and ability to morph unexpected synths into traditional rock riffs and vibes, whilst keeping a constant addicting head nod dance to all of their tracks.
Vocalist Paul Meany recently commented: “We wanted to see how simple we could get… we always overplayed everything, it was now a process of skimming it back”. While this is true of their previous albums, Mutemath ran the danger of over simplifying their music. And like most original bands pressured by major record labels (Black Keys for example), Mutemath succumbed, producing poppy, typical music, almost unrecognisable to their previous time defying masterpieces.
Adapting to an 80’s synth and drum machine differing from their atmospheric style, the math rock veterans sound like a mix between Imagine Dragons and Foals with leading track ‘Joy Rides’. ‘Light Up’ albeit, interesting, using a slow half time beat for the chorus, is absent of the ferocity that ‘Odd Souls’ had previously used.
The band reminisces to their glory years with ‘Monument’, but even with their tight performance, they lack the wow factor established in the past. ‘Stratosphere’ and ‘Vitals’ take the album in a familiar direction, producing just the right amount of layering in the arpeggiated melody, with heavy reverb on the vocals that sends the listener to a new world, utilising awkward drum fills that revolutionise the idea of math rock.
‘Vitals’ continues into ‘Composed’, featuring pulsating synths, with minimalistic drumbeats, and an impressive vocal range that surges with the ensemble into a contemplative meditation. This develops into the glitch hop beat ‘Used To’, rivalling the aggressive synths of even Skrillex. ‘Vitals’ is clearly in two acts; an over subscribed attempt at mainstream pop, streaming seamlessly into the well-loved familiar sound their supporters have come to admire.
Occasionally the album acts schizophrenically in its selection, with tracks like ‘Bulletproof’ taking advantage of beautiful piano samples, whilst mixing in 80’s chords and jarring drum beats with familiar arpeggiated guitar riffs, which sound out of place as a whole.
It becomes clear that Mutemath will need to go back to the drawing board. They have some mesmerising tracks, but lack the consistency that they once had in their earlier catalogue. ‘Remain’, an emotional track that resembles a diluted Linkin Park song, confirms this, and although the band have failed to live up to their exceptional standards this time round, they possess enough talent and experience to make up for it with their next album; whenever that may be.
Vitals is out now via Wojtek Records.