Mute Math | Armistice (Warner Bros.)

cd_mutemath.gifIt’s a wild ride, and one which we take not just willingly but necessarily.







It’s a singles world, or so they say. The music-listening public possesses short attention spans and shrinking music budgets. Kids today (so I’m told) want it quick and easy: single songs, or possibly an entire EP. But a full-length release? It’s a harder and harder sell.

Armistice, the latest from indie darlings Mute Math (including some reworked tracks that appeared on this spring’s aptly named EP), arrived with a bit of baggage, too. Billed as a "departure," Mute Math’s latest does, indeed, deviate from the band’s previous indie-tinged material. It’s a poppier Mute Math-potentially a hard sell to the hardcore indie hipsters. But I’ll stand up and say it: Armistice is rich and, after intentional immersion, addictive. In addition to its pop tendencies, it’s a bit more experimental than we’ve come to expect from the band, with layers and textures often in lieu of hit-ready melodies.

Despite this conscious redirection, you’ll soon find Armistice working its way into your head. Consider it a step forward, a band sure of its deep talents and wanting to deliver something new. The high-tech, high-energy intro track "The Nerve" establishes this expansion right from the start. The chorus, a repetition of "Set it on fire!" cranks the heat up. Are you ready?

For all its layers and sounds, "Backfire" is essentially a pop single. "Clipping" employs more programming and electronic sounds; here, Paul Meany’s voice just slightly rises above the music, and does so perfectly. Again, there are some serious pop leanings in the refrain; don’t write these guys’ genre in ink by any means. Angry-sounding strings over swelling synths takes "Clipping" to a whole new level.

"Spotlight" truly belongs right there. It’s the most radio-friendly of the bunch, soaring and compelling, rocking and riveting. It’s a wild ride, and one which we take not just willingly but necessarily. It’s as close to perfection as this moment will bring. (All right, you "singles" people out there; this one. Put this one on your playlist. You’re welcome.)

Next up, "No Response," breaks things down a bit; it’s more straightforward, simpler, direct. Though it’s slower than its predecessor, don’t write it off as mellow. It’s a slow burner, simmering so intensely that it’s not until the end that you realize you’ve been lit on fire. "Goodbye" is a soaring and blatant pop song, complete with what sound like programmed beats behind Meany’s buttery vocals. After the mellower "Odds," "Electrify" does just what its name foretells. I won’t go so far as to call it a dance number, though it’s very likely you’ll find yourself moving in your car, belting it out. (Don’t miss the white-boy soul chorus, by the way. Trust me; it works.)

Yes, that is horns you hear in the intro to the title track, contrasting nicely with the piano-driven "Lost Year." Official last song "Burden" (there’s a bonus track on top of two additional songs) brings the groove, and brings it good, with a catchy-as-hell guitar line destined to get stuck in your head. As for the extra tracks, "Clockwork" is beautiful, "Valium" is a tad too slow but still rather haunting, and the "Armistice (2nd Line Version) is, well, a little too clubby for my tastes.

Hands down, the first half of Armistice is the best; luckily the album’s solid enough that the rest ain’t so bad, either. In the case of Mute Math’s latest, change is good. I’ll take Armistice as a gift from the band, one that expands our minds and blows our expectations. A- | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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