67. Mutemath – Mutemath
Possibly the single greatest debut album of the 2000’s.
Mutemath broke onto the scene in 2004 with their EP “Reset,” and two years later followed up with the staggeringly impressive eponymous debut listed here. Birthed from the demise of Earthsuit (reviewed previously), the band has released two full length albums and both have made the list. But it is this debut that created the buzz and attention this band more than deserves. Check out their performance on David Letterman to see what a live band should look like.
The band was signed to Warner, but the album’s release was initially through their own independent means. They sold 10,000 copies independently in their first month and Warner quickly negotiated and settlement and resigning of the band. One of the main issues was Warner’s initial decision to place the band on a christian label and market them primarily to the Christian market, something the band fiercely opposed.
The version being discussed here will be the Warner release, which also contains songs from the bands previously released EP.
Filled with spacey and raucous rock, the album never relents and gives one the distinct impression that if the Police did not break up in the 1980’s they would possibly embrace the sound and vibe found here. Like Earthsuit, the band employs energetic rock, atmospheric theatrics and driving and impulsive live performances that are beyond memorable and border on heroic.
The band was an immediate underground hit with plays of their debut single, “Typical,” getting over 100,000 plays in just four days. They also received a major national television plus when American Idol contestant, Chris Sligh, performed the song to a befuddled and uninformed panel of judges.
The album begins with a marching drum and keyboard driven instrumental called “Collapse.” The odd number sets the tone for the album with its ethereal and atmospheric vibe. This is a sound the band would carry throughout the project.
The album quickly moves to the single, “Typical,” a song that received critical and college radio play, but should have been much bigger on mainstream rock and may have been if the band had any real distribution and promotional support. The song jumped nearly one spots on the alternative charts before peaking at #35 once the lack of real promotional support became apparent.
the song itself has a monster groove that is relentless throughout. Both passionate and angst filled with this odd pap, almost dance-ability, attached to it. Phenomenal drumming drives the song and pushes the song over an edge most in CCM never even broach.
Another short, limited lyrical number follows with “After We Have Left Out Homes,” which serves as a transition to one of the best songs in the collect, “Chaos.” The song, like much of the album, sounds like it was recorded live in the studio with a thumping and unique bass line interspersed with odd and quirky keyboard sounds. All the while, the drums continue to be the driving force behind the album. Touches of U2 stylized guitar meets post punk aggressiveness.
“Noticed” is more restrained and melodic, but no less rock and roll. the bridge does carry a distinctly “Synchronicity” vibe before reaching an aggressive style The police never came close to embracing. All while maintaining a purely melodic composure.Lyrically the song struggles with the concept of understanding the working of the heart; how easily broken and hardened it can become.
With “Plan B” the band shows its musical diversity. Starting nearly ambient in tone (and returning to it throughout the arrangement), the song twists and turns and delivers both a punch and a whisper. There is actually a touch of 80’s CCM band In-3d that many may recognize.
“Stare at the Sun” is sheer hypnotic beauty. Lead vocalist Paul Meany is the least Sting-like here and it’s a really beautiful performance. One gets the sense of what a great vocalist he truly is as he pushes his range and never really belts it out, instead using a restrained power that works perfectly.
“Obsolete” is a stunning instrumental that infuses more acoustic instrumentation while never disbanding the bands sound and electronica qualities. The addition of the acoustic piano adds a wonderful touch to the song. There are some vocals sparsed here and there, but nothing that would make it much more than an instrumental experience.
The frenetic fun that is “Break the Same,” makes the song a personal favorite. Like “Plan B,” the band here shows its musical dexterity with some wonderful progressions. Our lives may be quite different, but we “all break the same.” The Warner version is actually cut significantly with the final verse removed and yet still clocks in a 6 minutes.
The slower, nearly jazz infused “You Are Mine” is probably the closest thing to a ballad and may remind many readers of some of the more adventurous “Sting” compositions.
“Control” should have been a rock single that legends are made of. Instead it simply became the song many fans wait for at every show. Powerful and passionate, the great combination of unbridled musical attack in the chorus and restrained, melody focused verses makes a memorable rock anthem.
Another of the rarely discussed, but personal favorites is “Picture.” This one reminds me the most of Earthsuit for some reason. Great rock, well-played and a killer arrangement with top-notch vocals.
“Stall Out” may best be described as “ambient rock.” Never aggressive or hook driven, the song is propelled by a constant drumming and swirling guitar and keyboard that just hypnotizes the listener and envelopes the mind and soul. It’s beautiful rock that despite its length (7 minutes plus) never feels long or in need of editing. The melody is so uplifting and contagious, it would work as a modern worship song in many settings.
The album closes with another instrumental and the title track from the EP, “Reset.”
There are very few debut’s that come close to matching exactly what this mature and stylized band accomplished with theirs. Impressive and ingenious.