Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mutemath - "Odd Soul" Album Review

Artist/Band: Mutemath
Album: Odd Soul
Produced by Mutemath

Mutemath never ceases to amaze. Their self-titled debut was a solid indie-alternative record, featuring such fan favorites as Typical, Chaos, Stare at the Sun and Reset. Then there were the mind-blowing music videos! When Paul Meany, Darren King, Roy Mitchell-Cardenas and Greg Hill returned to the studio to record a follow up, the band was split on what musical direction to take. After much frustration and a near break-up, Mutemath decided to scrap everything they had done so far and start from scratch. Recorded in New Orleans, "Armistice" was a huge leap in musical maturity. Featuring a more prominent synthetic and electronic edge, this record was both innovative and accessible. Supported by a live show that is regarded by many as one of the best in the world, Mutemath held onto their position as one of the best alternative bands in the industry (and we'll ignore the fact that their song "Spotlight" was featured prominently on the Twilight soundtrack). Earlier this year however, Mutemath announced that guitarist Greg Hill was no longer with the band, and that the third record had been recorded as a trio. Needless to say, fans were a bit nervous as it was uncertain what was gong to happen next.

I am glad to say that "Odd Soul" is probably the most solid offering yet from the New Orleans rock group. While their previous efforts were more electronic in nature and held more of an alternative rock feel, "Odd Soul" goes back to the band's roots and incorporates soul, funk, blues, classic rock and 80's pop elements for a surprisingly diverse record. The title track, the launch single "Blood Pressure" and several other tracks such as "Tell Your Heart Heads Up", "Allies", and "Cavalries" feature a more raw, almost White Stripes-like, guitar presence. Definitely influenced by soul, funk and blues rock artists, "Odd Soul" is almost an ode to music of the past. Combine that with very soulful vocals, retro 70's drumbeats (Check out the song "Prytania") and the presence of organ and synthesizer, and you have a record that is closer to New Orleans jazz than a Mutemath record.

Lyrically, Paul Meany has always been very artistic and vague, disguising real life issues with rhetoric and metaphor rather than sticking to a particular them. This time around, however, Meany revisits his childhood growing up in a religious family and its impact on him as an individual. This is NOT from a Christian perspective though. Lyrically, Meany is very quick to talk about the problems he has with organized religion and his departure from it. While Mutemath DID come from the ashes of a former Christian band called Earthsuit, they will be quick to assure you that Mutemath is strictly a rock band. A self-proclaimed Universalist, Paul Meany conveys a message of frustration and cynicism on "Odd Soul". I was once a son, now I'm on my own. Wade through everyone, And I've got myself to show. The trials and tribulations seem to always track me down. Gonna ride off into the sunset and try me another town (Odd Soul). Haven't you suffered enough on the straight and narrow? Stand on your own (Cavalries). "Blood Pressure" seems to discuss the effects of legalism - Why can't you do a little more for Jesus? Why can't you? Blood pressure... keep rising. "Walking Paranoia" takes a different angle to the same idea. I am a nervous wreck. Jesus is coming back. Gonna catch me at a porno rack. I'm about to have a heart attack. Am I on hell's highway? Cause I'm walking paranoia. 

Each song on "Odd Soul" follows this theme. While it is depressing to see such frustration coming from such a talented man, Meany certainly raises excellent questions. What kind of a church did he go to that disillusioned him so much? Why is it that Meany must sing I'm undecided if kidding or not. Under the smiling, you never know. Fall in a line if you're standing around. Let the harvester carve your soul (Quarantine)? Both a musically and lyrically intense record, "Odd Soul" makes you think. I can't begin to touch the surface when it comes to the lyrical depth. Each song carries weight and rawness.

I would suggest that "Odd Soul" is Mutemath's strongest work to date. While much darker lyrically, the musical ingenuity is refreshing in a market flooded with pop clones.

Track Listing:
1. Odd Soul
2. Prytania
3. Blood Pressure
4. Tell Your Heart Heads Up
5. All or Nothing
6. Sun Ray
7. Allies
8. Cavalries
9. Walking Paranoia
10. One More
11. Equals
12. Quarantine
13. In No Time


  1. I grew up in the same fundamentalist Christian culture as the guys from MuteMath; in fact, I saw them perform live as Earthsuit, the weirdrock CCM incarnation that preceded MM, long before any of them were publicly showing any symptoms of dissent or disillusionment. If you haven't experienced that subculture first hand, very much less been raised in it, it's probably hard to imagine how the experience sticks with you. Paul Meany is talented, you're right, but, by my lights as least, there's nothing very surprising about the persistence of his "frustration" (preoccupation might also be a good word for it) with these subjects. I've been decompressing from this shite for about 6 years now, and sometimes it feels the process will go on forever. Listening to MuteMath is one of the most satisfying forms of post-Evangelical catharsis I have found; honestly, if their music isn't a cure all its own, at least it's a powerful palliative.

  2. *at least

    Cheers for this cool review, by the way - very interesting.