MUTEMATH - Armistice
Release Date: August 18, 2009
Record Label: Warner Bros.
For the follow-up to their self-titled 2006 debut, caps-happy MUTEMATH not only changed up their typeset (who'd they let vote on this change? Kanye West and Travis Barker?), but the Louisiana quartet set it upon themselves to "embarrass" the very album many people claimed was the return to progressive pop music bands like Genesis and The Moody Blues brought to mainstream audiences years ago. Keeping their Cajun-flavored soul intact, MUTEMATH is a glossier band than any jazz musician could ever imagine pursuing, more hook-friendly than Radiohead and never as monumentally lavish as Muse. However, Armistice wants to be all said styles.
There's not enough Twilight-approved songs to get MUTEMATH onto MTV's radar, yet there isn't enough indie moodiness to speak to those who enjoy neatly-trimmed beards and Ben Gibbard. MUTEMATH walks down a lonesome road, and in-between Paul Meany's smooth vocals and a mammoth wall of sound lurking behind him, what makes Armistice so damn captivating is how it's a collaborative effort that proves MUTEMATH changed that typeset for one very important reason: they are a unified front. No, I said front, not font ... although, to be fair ... that would have been funnier.
Working with producer Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Counting Crows), the band has taken their creatively complex and overwhelming sound, gone all Spinal Tap with it and used their own dramatic inner-forces to reconstruct the very record they first released. Littered with songs that are vividly spastic and feel like Meany is defiantly belting out hymns for his own insecurities ("No Response"), MUTEMATH is bigger than whatever momentum was garnered through "Spotlight," featured on that hip teenage vampire film about ... hip teenage vampires and ... that one girl who looks stoned all the time ... and Paramore or something? I should probably IMDb that movie for a plot synopsis, but damn it, there's simply no time! But I digress...
Herring has, oddly enough, assisted the band by breathing new life into their frontiers, and given them the tools to build something that any fan of dark pop music will feast upon. "Clipping" might be the band's biggest reach, scattering Meany's soft vocals with heavy distortion, and with "The Nerve" kicking things off with a jolt of electric boogaloo (okay, it's not quite that funky), there is hardly anything that will instantly reel listeners in with sincere immediacy. Yet that seems to be the intent: Armistice plays like Coldplay's X&Y without the lush choruses; it's moody, it's dark, and it's more of a moth than a butterfly. Now, due to it's severe distance from their debut, it appears as a sophomore slump, but slow down, my avid little cynic: Armistice could not be any brighter; it's like Muse playing over Rush with Phil Collins writing the songs.
On the album cover for the record, the band stands in front of what appears to be gates to their own world. For each of us, it's easy to spread out the metaphoric language and pick away at what it could all mean. However, it might be better off to the individual to decide where they would prefer Armistice to take them; it isn't a record that caters to a nationwide "kid-tested mother-approved" taste test -- no, this is an album that will speak to everybody in different ways, and may take an investment to really get into. You see, despite all the easy comparisons one can draw this album to, MUTEMATH are staking a claim in pop music for the advanced music fan, embarking on dark-pop that is far from the Cure and more complex than Jimmy Eat World. Some of the best albums you'll ever hear are ones that you have to spend real time with, and Armistice just might be the most challenging pop record you'll ever find yourself listening to several years down a road that MUTEMATH paved themselves.
i thought there was already a review on this? either way, great review chris. i actually had no trouble getting into this album. it's genius. i love every second of it. definitely in my top albums of the year.
After seeing MUTEMATH live back in '06, I instantly fell in love with the first album when it came out. I picked up Armstice when it came out, and wasn't instantly sucked in. I sat it aside and picked it back up a week later, and it has grown on me more and more with each listen.
I always know when an album that doesn't hit will grow on me. It's when I listen to it, say I don't really like it, but it will still sneak its way back into my day here and there... This is that album for me.