Oh yes! This is me blogging about MUTEMATH again. They released their third album a few weeks ago which is called Odd Soul. This album cemented them as my favorite band. I always hesitated to have such a thing as a favorite band because I don’t like to compare songs and bands and put them on a scale or hierarchy. Oh, and I hate them just a little bit for choosing a name that is written in all caps, but they say they like how square it looks… It also looks like I am screaming their name all over this post!
First, a few words about the music in Odd Soul. MUTEMATH is a new band. Now that Greg Hill (the former guitarist) is no longer part of the band, it only makes sense that Odd Soul contains the largest amount of heavy hitting guitar riffs MUTEMATH has ever produced. (I can see you reading that sentence a second time.) Actually, the bassist Roy Mitchell-Cardenas was holding all of that guitar-greatness inside him. When Greg left, he took on the responsibility of writing and playing the guitars, and he went nuts (his hair also went nuts). By the way, they have found Todd Gummerman, who is now bringing these guitar riffs to life during shows, so that Roy don’t have to grow a second pair of arms.
Odd Soul sounds like a clash between today’s alternative and the 70’s. A lot of songs are actual progressive rock, with transitions and prolonged instrumental awesomeness. The guys bought a number of old-timey instruments for this record, and the sound of these instruments taken with modern recording equipment is phenomenal. I sometimes hear people say that no great music has been done since the 70’s-80’s. I would say loudly to these people: MUTEMATH! (Then, they would probably run away from me, screaming as well.)
Some of you might remember my earlier post on MUTEMATH, where I was discussing the meaning of the lyrics in Armistice, their second album. I thought I had some evidence that the guys were departing from Christianity. The new album, Odd Soul, turns out to be all about the relationship of Paul, Darren and Roy to Christianity. Even the album artwork is full of symbolic hints to that. It isn’t going in the direction I thought it was when I was interpreting Armistice, but I was close.
Here is a revealing interview with Darren King where he explains where he is regarding religion. It really sets the album in context.
Essentially, Paul, Darren and Roy came to realize how unconventional human beings they are. They grew up in an extremely religious environment, which instilled beliefs and values into the very core of their beings. They have come to recognize that it is far from all good, but it defines such a large part of them that they can’t let it all go. In the words of Darren:
“It’s certainly a cop out to let somebody do all of your thinking and believing for you, but I’ve decided at this point in my life that it’s also a cop out to just pretend like it’s all stupid. You know, when you’re a little kid and you lose a game so you just kick the game over and say, “This is stupid”? I can’t do that either.”
So the album is the product of all the frustrations and good things alike coming up from the Christian upbringing of the members of MUTEMATH. Darren recounts that if it hasn’t been from the “speaking in tongues” church that let him bang on drums recklessly while the church attendants where “letting the Jesus out”, he most probably wouldn’t be the incredible drummer he is today.
He also tells the story of the song Blood Pressure. When he was young, he felt the pressure to be a perfect person, even better than Jesus. That drive for perfection drove him to always improve and surpass everything he did, but also to feel like hell for every moment of weakness. This sense of perfectionism is very prominent in MUTEMATH’s style.
Still, there is something wild and uncontrollable about their music and live performances. They look like they have spent years trapped in a box and they are now enjoying the absence of boundaries. You can see this in the shear originality of their music videos, the reckless “running all over the stage” of their live performances, and their very, very creative music. They have attained an equilibrium between complexity and simplicity, spontaneity and discipline, and fun and reflexion that I have never seen in a band.
When I reflect upon the story that is told in Odd Soul, it looks to me like religion only fills the hole it creates. This is what we see when religious people say that morality is inherent to religion, or that their lives are meaningless if there is no God or that there has to be something after death. This is probably why leaving religion can be either a very smooth or a very distressing experience. It depends on whether you have found something to fill the hole or not before you became disillusioned with the whole thing. I think this is where these guys are right now. They are disillusioned to a degree, but they won’t let it all go until they find meaning and comfort elsewhere. When you grow up in an overwhelmingly religious environment like they did, it must feel like amputation to let it all go.
On a final note, MUTEMATH is the most fascinating band you’ll discover in a long time. There is a lot of depth to their music, to their performances and to them personally. Give Odd Soul a listen. Or two. Or a hundred. (I’m already beyond 40.)