I suppose I should put my cards on the table to begin with. I regarded Mutemath's first album as a mixed bag. I liked Chaos, You Are Mine, Control, and I liked them a LOT. But, I was less enamoured with some of the other tracks. There was a classic sweet and sour tension in that previous album - two sensibilities at work. In the follow up to any such album, it's always interesting to see how that balance progresses.
So, here comes Armistice. They made it, they argued about it, they deferred it, they made it over again with a new producer, then they released it. Was it worth all the heartache and waiting? Let's hear....
What ever happend with those first three tracks? My heart sank as they played, perhaps they will improve on further accquiantance, but at first listen they sound like triumphs of attitude and little more. I found them bleak bleak bleak. I'll keep trying though. I almost gave up at this point. Fortunately I didn't...
"Spotlight" has been well-trailed and is a concert crowd pleaser with its sing along riff. Obviously, a single.
"Pins and Needles" is a nice little contemplative song in which the melodic side of the band gets full reign.
In "Goodbye" we hear again that magical balance between melody and attitude which made some of the tracks on the previous album so good. For me, this is the standout track of the album and of course it will be a single. A breezy pop song to which Paul Meaney's voice is able to bring just a slight edge.
"Odds" breaks the format slightly, a drum-driven song with a strong hook.
"Electrify" works well because it rises and falls in pace and intensity, although it's not a particularly strong song.
Armistice, the title track, IS a strong song and tumbles along nicely, well arranged and well paced - harking back very strongly to the sound of Earthsuit.
"Lost Year" is a nice song, a slower track that shows off well one of the band's strongest selling points (though one that they perhaps over-use): Namely that Paul Meaney's voice doubles up very well. He has a strong voice, but it somehow sounds a lot better when it's doubled - and MM know this and do it at every opportunity.
On "Burden" we get as close to funky guitar as it's possible to get without actually going there (but hold on to that thought....)
Valium is a sad little low-key song which works really well because it has appealing chord changes.
Finally, we have the "2nd line" version of "Armistice". Wow! There IS funky guitar here, essentially this is a soul version of the title track. A little Average White Band and a lot Jamiroqui. NOW I know who Paul Meaney's vocal style reminds me of 8-)Actually I like this version as much as the first.
So, overall, I think that the balance that lies at the heart of MMs appeal is still intact. Their avowed mission is to make music that doesn't grind any political, religious or other axes but has wide appeal. For the most part I think that this album serves that mission well. I just don't 'get' those first three tracks..... as ever, your mileage may vary.
I have the first Mutemath album and loved it so was eager to get this one when it came out. Like the previous album, it took me a few listens to really appreciate all the songs although I liked the album as a whole from the outset. I already knew 'Spotlight' and haven't tired of listening to it after many many repeats! It never fails to put a smile on my face when I hear the first few notes. 'Goodbye' is possibly my favourite on the album as it's a great singalong tune with a catchy chorus as is 'Electrify'. 'No Response' and 'Pins and Needles' are more gentle tunes but still utterly fabulous. 'Clipping' seems to start out quiet and subdued, before building to a crescendo and then dropping back to a gentle yet fitting conclusion. Listening to the opening of 'Armistice' just puts a picture in my head of a big band of musicians enjoying themselves playing various instruments which somehow all come together in this cracker of a tune. I love the beauty of the lyrics to 'Lost Year' and the opening of 'Burden', the final song on the album is reminiscent of INXS/Michael Hutchence whilst coming into its own unique sounds as it progresses. It's rare to find an album you can listen to over and over again without there being one or two songs you want to skip but 'Armistice' is just such an album. I've read other reviewer's comments which say that Mutemath are amazing live so I can only hope they come and play in the UK sometime soon.