New Orleans-based MUTEMATH (aka Mute Math, mutemath or MuteMath) is an alternative rock quartet that defies easy categorization—both in terms of sound and lyrical content. Though a couple members were once involved with the now-defunct Christian group Earthsuit, MUTEMATH took issue with Warner Bros. Records’ decision to market them as a CCM band via Word Records in 2006. That resulted in the band filing a breach of contract lawsuit which was ultimately settled out of court.
Regarding the controversy, vocalist and keyboard player Paul Meany told Boise Weekly, "The biggest decision we made as a band was to not subject ourselves to that system to make music. There’s sort of a Christian music system, which I’ve worked in, in the past with other bands. I found it to be extremely paralyzing to make music in that environment. … We’re obviously a band; that’s really all we ever wanted to be from the very beginning without catering to any particular genre or political or religious agenda or anything. We just want to make music with no barriers." Those sentiments apply to MUTEMATH’s atmospheric sound as well, which fuses guitar, a variety of keyboards and electronica.
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"Pins and Needles" addresses the need to embrace brokenness and reject false pretenses. "Facades are a fire on the skin," Meany sings. "And I'm growing fond of broken people/As I see that I am one of them." "The Nerve" offers an oblique critique of worldly ills, including drunkenness, denial and self-deception. The song concludes with a challenge for all of us to take responsibility for the state of things today.
Much of the remainder of the album resists neat categorization as either pro-social or objectionable content. "Clipping" perhaps offers muted (pun intended) criticism of war efforts abroad ("Common sense failed again/Meddling in a foreign scene"). "Goodbye" is a conventional breakup song ("If you say goodbye, my heart's in trouble"), as is "Lost Year" ("Somewhere love was disregarded/And it all came undone"). The title track explores a man's attempt to make peace in a conflict-filled relationship, even if it means taking more responsibility for problems than he probably should.
The band strikes an agnostic pose regarding moral absolutes on "No Response": "If it all is black and white/Then tell me what is wrong and right/I don't suppose that anybody knows." A similar mindset is evident on "Clipping," where we hear, "I don't know who to trust anymore/ ... I don't know who to blame anymore/ ... I just don't know anymore." "Odds" offers a bleak assessment, apparently, of our nation's future ("Cast another vote/In our sad, terminal democracy/The word is out on us/We have gone delirious/The floor is falling out from under us"). A suggestive line on "Electrify" describes a guy's hope that a woman he's interested in will someday "take me home and lose control."
Given MUTEMATH's litigious reaction to being pigeonholed as a Christian band, it's no surprise that this group is hard to pin down lyrically. Paul Meany and his bandmates occasionally have moments of keen perception when it comes to matters of the heart and the state of the world. Elsewhere, though, we get what amounts to a postmodern shrug of uncertainty regarding some pretty serious concerns, such as the existence of right and wrong, for example—not to mention the band's dreary assessment of democracy's future.
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MUTEMATH's second full-length effort hit No. 18 on Billboard's album chart.
August 18, 2009