WARNING: My scientific brain did not want me to write this post, because no matter how excited I feel about the topic, what I wrote here is still mere speculation. The official story behind the making of Armistice can be found here. Anyway, let’s start, and let’s remind ourselves how easy it is to see something that isn’t really there when we look really hard for it. I hope I will be able to verify this story one day.
Paul Meane, the lead singer of MUTEMATH was once part of a very original musical project called Earthsuit. I enjoyed the music of Earthsuit, but I cannot say the same of the lyrics. I don’t think that combining musical innovation and preaching is a very good idea. Paul Meane came to the same conclusion when he joined forces with Darren King, Greg Hill and Roy Mitchell-Cardenas to form MUTEMATH.
However, the christian influences persisted in the lyrics of the first MUTEMATH album. The song called Chaos, which is a musical masterpiece, is clearly about the lord. Some of the other songs on the album are also definitely about some aspect of Christianity, but they aren’t explicitly so. Paul Meane seemed to care about reaching to an audience that wasn’t interested in religious lyrics, so all songs can also easily be interpreted some other way.
The conclusion I draw from this is that Paul Meane is a believer, and that either the other guys in MUTEMATH are also believers, or they didn’t mind Paul writing about his beliefs. After the release of their first album, they were on tour for two years and a half. During this time, they wrote about 16 songs, which they were about to use to construct their second album. This is where the fun starts.
The critical point
When the time came to make the second album, it turned out the guys didn’t agree on what to do or where to go with the songs they had already written. This is the one part of the story which I think is purposefully vague. It is not mentioned what the disagreement is about. What follows is the hiring of a new producer who jumps in and suggest to the guys to start from scratch. Scrape the old material, gain some fresh material everybody will be enthusiastic about, and move on from there. The story makes it seem like the disagreement was over the music, but I strongly suspect it also had something to do with the lyrics.
Armistice opens up with a track called The Nerve, which is about being unsatisfied with the nonsensical aspects of the world around us, and getting the urge to do something about it. The following track, Backfire, is definitely about Murphy’s law, and how things tend to go wrong no matter how carefully we plan them.
The third piece of the album, Clipping, is my favorite. This is where the religious stuff first takes a hit. Just have a look at the lyrics, which I won’t reproduce here. After an expression of confusion and disappointment found in the first two songs, we come to a full-blown expression of doubt. Not just any doubt. Doubt that ideas held before may have been wrong, that common sense is not a reliable guide for truth, and that there is ‘another choice’. The melodic tone of the song makes all of this a very positive thing.
I skip ahead to the fifth (No Response) and sixth (Pins and Needles) tracks, which are about realizing more fully what is being left behind. It is also about realizing there is no going back. The lines most emphasized in No Response are:
And maybe when we reach the end
We’ll ask imaginary friends
Why no response?
In Pins and Needles, they are:
And I’m growing fond of broken people,
As I see that I am one of them.
It is also worth mentioning the opening lines of this song:
Paper thin conviction,
Turning another page,
Plotting how to build myself to be
Everything that I am not at all.
This could easily be about the Bible. The next track of interest is Odds, as it really tells the story of the making of the album. When disagreements come about, odds are we’ll be better off with a fresh start, even if it is a scary thought. This song could very well be about overcoming the divide that is caused by religious differences.
It is also worth noting that Electrify, is the first song written by MUTEMATH about passion: something that is not usually emphasized in a religious context. More importantly, no song on Armistice can be interpreted as being religious. MUTEMATH has become at least fully secular.
I love the idea that MUTEMATH is now (at least) agnostic, and implicitly singing about their departure from religion. The story told in Armistice is consistent with this, and it is very touching to the people who are sympathetic to these stories. I should add that whatever their texts are about, I still think that their music is part of the very best stuff that is being produced at the moment. They are now working on a third album, and I can’t wait to hear more! They are also offering the most simultaneously energetic and accurate live performances I have ever seen. Even if you don’t appreciate them on album, there is still a very good chance you will love them on stage.