MUTEMATH – Odd Soul (2011)

A lot of bands feel a need to evolve their style as their career progresses, but it’s pretty rare to see a band try to evolve their sound over the course of an album. That’s about the best way I can describe what MUTEMATH does on their latest release, Odd Soul. Heading in to the album, I had heard comparisons to Radiohead and progressive rock. While these assertions are technically fair, I think they are just a little bit misleading. There are certainly portions of Odd Soul where the New Orleans-based quartet are trying to find their inner Kid A, but the majority of it remains a rock album- a pretty good one actually. I respect the desire of the band to move forward and produce new sounds, but in this situation, unfortunately, it comes at the price of their music.

You can imagine my confusion when I heard the opening three tracks of this album. The opening title track is straightforward hard blues rock anthem that has Paul Meany (pretty bad ass name for a front man) delivering vintage southern rock growls. The song reminds of the Black Keys (who you know I am a pretty big fan of) more than anything. “Prytania” is certainly a change of pace but would still fall under the classification of a rock song to me. Honestly, it provides a nice fast-paced rock n’ roll beat with high-pitched vocals that provide a very pleasant alternative to “Moves Like Jagger.” And finally we come to “Blood Pressure,” a song that I have already heard making its way into promos for the Major League Baseball playoffs. Deservedly so, honestly. “Why can’t you be more like your older brother?/ Why can’t you do a little more for Jesus?” How do you not love lines like that? The song is bound to be enjoyed by any fan of hard rock. It’s not over the top, but it hits high intensity at all the right moments. However, I am failing to see where any comparison to Radiohead, Dubstep or electronic music come into play here. It sounds like a southern rock album so far and, to be completely honest, is working its way into my top albums of the year list.

That brings us to “Tell Your Heart Heads Up,” which has a subtle but noticeable electronic-esque drum beat. Very past face, feels a little bit too busy for a rock song, and just never seems to synthesize itself with the rest of the track. That’s too bad, because the song is pretty good otherwise. It makes nice use of organ and echoing vocals, but can never really decide what it wants to be. These little elements don’t stop there. They continue to grow and grow as the album continues, which comes as a pretty big disappointment to me. I know that I have a little bit of a bias towards electronic music and that entire niche, but this and just seems to be so much better at performing the rock act. The busy drums, out of control solos and “experimental” instrumentals continue for the next five or six tracks. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they bring in that whole clashing quality. “Sun Ray” eats up two minutes of useless track with their jamming. I’ve listened to it over a dozen times and still can’t see what it is trying to bring to the album.

If the instrumentals and “electronic” portions, if you will, would seem to work better within the context if they were executed just a little better. If you’re really going to make an effort to sound like post-Kid A Radiohead on your album, you need to nail it. I don’t even like that version of Radiohead, but this band never seemed like they were achieving anything more than imitation. It was always felt so unfocused and as if those portions were them just getting lost in those artistry… in a bad way. The last two minutes of “Walking Paranoia” and over half the song “Cavalries” felt as if the music veered off the road and couldn’t find it’s way back, so they just wrapped it up as best they could. Don’t even get me started on the unnecessary seven minutes that are “Quarantine.”

Then, as if nothing ever happened, they come back for a soft rock number, “In No Time,” to close out the album. The final track features some of their most touching lyrics and more impressive crooning from Meany (that doesn’t sound right). Those sections and additions to the album definitely do not ruin the listening experience, it’s really just kind of distracting. Those first three tracks are about as good as they come and when the rock elements pop up again throughout the album, they’re excellent. They are a talented bad who produced a good album that could have been great if it had just settled on what it wanted to be.

This is not my download link, nor do I own this material.


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