"I’m too sacred for the sinners/And the saints wish I would leave." - Mark Heard
Monday, September 10, 2012
Review - Mutemath - Odd Soul
I figured this album would grow on me and it has. In fact, I think I'll put on some headphones and take a listen right now. Very inventive with enough layers to keep a bloke interested for months.
According to legend, the members of Mutemath locked themselves away for six months with no producers, record company people, or snobby music critics allowed so that they could make the kind of album that they wanted for themselves. In doing so they’ve managed to make one for the rest of us. For those of you with long memories, Mutemath had some award winning innovative low-tech video off their first album back in 2006. You’d remember it if you saw it. Or heard it. Nearly five years later, and after six months of seclusion, the boys in the band have decided to grace us with Odd Soul, their third album.
And what an appropriately named album it is! While their first album was a poster child for creative use of effects pedals (while still retaining catchy songs) this album plunges deep into soulful 70’s-style classic rock with a sprinkling of magic pixie dust. The opening title track throws a mellotron flute on top of a lumbering Fleetwood Mac “Tusk” meets Led Zeppelin swagger before heading to “Blood Pressure”, a classy and smoky Rolling Stones derivative if ever there was one. Well, not exactly. Although Mutemath seems to be channeling the spirit of the 70s hard rock bands they can’t keep from blasting off into space rock. So while a song like “Tell Your Heart Heads Up” has a definite lounge lo-fi sound the second half of the song finds the band adding gurgling guitar sounds and waterfalls of reverb to the bluesy mix, creating a whole new beast. The relaxed “All or Nothing” harkens them back to their well-established Police sound, and pleasantly so, but not without a side trip into an extended trippy instrumental section which itself leads to “Sun Ray”, a glorious flashback instrumental full of sunshine and sonic drips. “Allies” cranks up the heat again with thick guitar textures and a killer chorus. And then there’s “Cavalries” which sounds like the Mamas & Papas recording over a tricky-beat acid film score… it’s weird but deliciously so, especially when it takes a turn for the funky halfway through. In “Quarantine” the band turns up the round Rickenbacker bass sound and suddenly I’m listening to the Yes masterpiece Fragile while their drummer goes absolutely insane, monstrously pounding away on rhythms that are too insane to work, and yet they do. Throughout this album I kept catching glimpses of the great bands of the classic rock era, plus snippets of early U2 or even Radiohead, all cleverly incorporated in their own creative vibe.
Just between you and me, the more I listen to this album the more I like it. It’s definitely a grower with some seriously bold and adventurous uses of sound and strong structures. Odd Soul is experimental at times but never gets so wrapped up in itself that the music becomes a casualty. The melodies ain’t nothing to sneeze at either. While not as instantly engaging as their earlier albums Mutemath has created a textured, layered, completely rocking album that I can heartily recommend to any fan of guitar rock, be they twenty or sixty. For best results put on a pair of good headphones, turn off the lights, and give these songs the undivided attention they deserve.