Mutemath – Odd Soul (Review) 2011
In my mind, there are two kinds of Mutemath-ers:
-Those that swear by the self-titled debut (intense, spacey, huge drums, gorgeous melodies)
-Those that were won over by their sophomore effort Armistice (groovy, earthy, layered, dry)
Both records showed immense talent. Paul Meany’s vocals seem to get more solid by the day, Darren King’s drumming is the kind of thing you need to buy a ticket for in order to truly understand, and the bass & synth work of Roy Mitchell-Cardenas completes the rhythm section in a way that arguably makes him the most talented one in the group. However, both records show very different sides of Mutemath.
No matter where you place yourself as a fan, the New Orleans trio (previously a quartet) is undeniably one of the tightest and unique groups in the music business.
So where does their third release, Odd Soul, fall into place?
It’s sort of an off-shoot of Armistice, I’d say. Yet for the first time, I’m hearing definite comparisons to other contemporary groups. That in itself is not a bad thing… but something that held this band on a pedestal for me was the subtle hints of influences within this band’s completely unique sound. I can’t say that about Odd Soul, as many elements seem to draw heavily from the sound of bands like The Black Keys and even some Maroon 5-ish grooves.
The title track is a a dry, sporadic, jarring sort of tune that caught my ear when it was released as the first single. Very different, but intriguing. Then Mutemath gave us a more official single with “Blood Pressure”.
In all honesty, “Blood Pressure” failed to impress both myself and my circle of fellow Mutemath fans. It’s a fun track but it’s a sort of standard mid-tempo, bluesy tune with obvious and uninspiring melodies. My excitement level dropped significantly when I saw the band pumping this with much more vigor than “Odd Soul”.
The good news? “Blood Pressure” is by far the most bland track on Odd Soul, as other offerings do a better job at perking the listeners’ ears up (namely “Cavalries”, “Walking Paranoia”, “All or Nothing”, and “Equals”).
I was pleasantly surprised with the rest of the record, but I realized that my relief was mainly due to the low bar that Mutemath set with their hype behind “Blood Pressure”. Upon a second listen, I found myself less enthralled with Odd Soul as a whole.
Now I read some interviews, and I know the goal of this record was to be immediately fun to listen to and play on tour. I get that, and it doesn’t disappoint there. After all, the band almost called it quits during the making of Armistice, so give them a break and be glad they’re still making music.
Also, I’d like to quickly address the departure of Greg Hill and the new addition to the band…
Greg definitely had his place in the group, but seemed to be the “weakest link”, for lack of a better term. Only in the sense that he wasn’t as animated onstage as the rest of the group, and his parts were the least standout-ish. But in his absence, Roy took over guitar duties for Odd Soul, which led to a more guitar-heavy sound this time around. But I will say for the first time ever that I don’t care for the heavier guitar. Greg’s playing filled the space, which was perfect for this particular band.
Mutemath has a done a few performances with Hill’s replacement, Todd Gummerman. To my surprise, Gummerman is less appealing to watch on stage than Greg was. I can’t judge his playing or writing ability, as Roy (and other members) took care of that for Odd Soul, but I can safely speak for a number of people when I say “really?”. When past Mutemath performances included keyboard-handstands and crowd surfing on drums, I think you need a guy that does a bit more than bob his head on stage. Nothing against Todd as a person or as a musician, I’m strictly talking about stage presence.
Bottom line: Odd Soul is a fun, groovy record for the more casual listener (or a fan of The Black Keys maybe), but it lacks intensity. This time around, the fist-pumping, screaming, and excitement of tracks like “Chaos”, “Plan B”, “Break the Same”, “Backfire”, and “Burden” have made way for a mellow head bobbing that won’t change much during the course of the record.
For listeners like myself, we craved the intensity that Mutemath delivered earlier on. They filled a niche that no one else could. This “new’ or ‘current” Mutemath now falls in line with the trend of being bluesy, gritty, and vintage… and that sound has been done before, many times.
Although an enjoyable record, Odd Soul doesn’t offer anything that I couldn’t have lived without.
-Clay Lancaster (www.claylancaster.com)
Recommended tracks: “All or Nothing”, “Cavalries”
Categories: Album Reviews