I still don’t know how I feel about the new MUTEMATH album…. (As their iTunes bonus track declares, “There’s no architecture for how I feel.“) Musically, I like it a lot. It’s different from the self-titled debut that I loved but it still has that crazy percussive driving rhythmic feel to it. The violin that teased on “Reset” gets more airtime here, and songs like “Armistice” feature full-out horn sections and remind you that they’re indeed from New Orleans. “Clipping” has some kind of 12/4 beautiful piano triplet melody over 6/8 percussive beats, or something like that. At one point, “Odds” has two tambourines playing different rhythms at the same time! Except for the long closer, every song is shorter than every non-interlude track on the debut, and there’s more of a poppy feel to the melodies, but at the same time the songs are all deliberately layered and technically detailed and refined.
In a word, it’s brilliant.
But lyrically I’m kinda disappointed.
Ever since the underrated Christian band Earthsuit, Paul Meany has strived to pull away from the Christian label, which is fine. But bands like Thrice and Consider The Thief have shown me that you can do that and still beautifully express your faith. Some of the songs on MUTEMATH’s first album displayed a subtle confidence that expressed the joy in my heart, and it was the icing on the cake of a beautiful and crazy musical album.
This new album is devoid of vague but Truth-applicable declarations like “There is no better loss than to lose myself in you.. it’s a beautiful surrender” or “I know you stay true when my world is false, everything around’s breaking down like chaos, I know you stay…”
In fact, Armistice almost has themes of flat-out agnosticism. The mildly post-modern “Clipping” bemoans “I don’t know what is right anymore,” and the more explicit “No Response” declares, “Tell me what is wrong and right / I don’t suppose that anybody knows / And maybe when we reach the end / We’ll ask imaginary friends / Why no response.” To top it off, “Electrify” is a mildly lustful tune about a woman he hopes will “go too far” and “take me home and lose control.” It feels like Meany has crossed the line from simply not singing about his faith to actually rejecting it!
There are still a few positive themes here that reflect Truth. “The Nerve” is stellar, asking “Can you believe this world’s got the nerve to insist it won’t trade for a better one?…. SET IT ON FIRE!” “Pins and Needles” beautifully admits to brokenness, declaring “I’m growing fond of broken people as I realize I am one of them.” And songs like “Odds” and “Armistice” seek reconciliation. But I can’t get past the three aforementioned songs. Maybe I’m looking too hard and going too far, but I miss the subtle confidence of the old MUTEMATH.