Sunday, March 7, 2010

In Due Time: Thoughts on MuteMath's Armistice

I'm not entirely sure why I delayed so long listening to this album.

MuteMath's self-titled debut was an incredible introduction (not counting an earlier EP). It had so many essential elements... It was catchy and accessible, but still complex and layered. It was strong and confident, but still somehow delicate.

After 3+ years of waiting, MuteMath fans finally received a follow-up album... Armistice. It's hard to live up to the anticipation that their debut would have engendered. I'd be willing to bet that most fans were disappointed with Armistice upon first listen. It's not as accessible, it's less direct, and to be perfectly honest, it's a little more selfish. MuteMath made a record for themselves.

Having said that..... I fail to see why this is a problem. Van Gogh didn't sit down and paint with the thought..."Will people like this?" He painted what he saw in his mind. Steve Jobs doesn't spend time worrying about making products that consumers ask for... He makes a product that he thinks is incredible, and he TELLS the consumer.. "Check this thing out! Isn't it awesome? You want one, I know you do."

I see nothing wrong with a band taking a similar stance on their music. Sure, Nickelback sells more albums than Mars Volta, and I'm not here to rip on Top 40 bands. There is enough room in the world for both Shinedown and Wilco. There will be people that love Radiohead, and those that don't (you know I'm in the former group).

My point here is that there will always be a group of listeners that are interested in music that is not created with them in mind. They recognize this kind of music as a glimpse into the imagination of another... and that's why it's a fantastic journey. I tend to think it takes an active imagination in order to be intrigued by another's imagination in this way. These listeners may appreciate the new offering from MuteMath.

In reading reviews on Armistice.... I noticed a trend.

Reviewers who loved the album delved deep into the substance of the record. They wrote about the layers, the moods, and the soul of the songs. They shared specific thoughts about moments in songs that moved them. They displayed their reviews in small fonts in order to squeeze in as much detail as possible. It's obvious the reviewer wanted to get to the core of what the album meant to the band, in order to understand it better.

Reviews that started with generic fare such as "MuteMath is not your typical rock band" were not generally as positive. These reviewers were frustrated by the very same layers that the adoring reviewers relished in. Where the above reviewers talked more in terms of "mood" and "atmosphere", these negative reviews tended to talk about "choruses" and "hooks". They were often written in large fonts, and felt overbearing at times.

One reviewer describes the single "Backfire" as "a disconcerting reiteration of any pop-rock song that cracked the top-40 in the past decade". Seriously?! What top 40 radio station was he listening to?

By this point, I'm assuming you can see that I am enjoying getting to know Armistice. Sure, at first listen I was kind of surprised. I wondered where the huge "aahaaa!!" moments were.... It took a bit of time for it to grab me... but it certainly has.

Maybe there's another correlation to consider here. Some people are willing to spend time and effort to really dig into a good book. They appreciate the workout for their imagination. It might take some work, but the payoff is well worth it. These kinds of people are probably more willing to spend time getting to know a record in the same way.

However, if you're more of a "let's order pizza delivery and watch Jersey Shore" kind of person, Armistice might not be for you.

Having said ALL that, Jess loves Armistice.... "I just like it. I don't know why..." She says. (She likes reality tv too. :) )

So maybe just forget I said anything.



Ida Lou said...

that's great! i totally understand what you mean about trying to understand the meaning behind lyrics, you can totally learn a lot about a person on what they write. plus you are introduced to new ways of thinking and things you've never thought before. the part about Jess made me laugh lol.

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