The latest MUTEMATH release, Odd Soul, is a significant step up from its mostly colorless previous album, Armistice. The songwriting on it has more bite, and the infusion of a few bluesy riffs here and there help dispel the slick blandness that hung over Armistice and some of the band’s other lesser efforts.
But even if Odd Soul were another disappointment, it would hardly matter. Missing a live MUTEMATH show isn’t advisable. For one thing, the band breathes new life into every song, often delivering something wholly different from the studio cut. When I interviewed frontman Paul Meany a couple years ago during the band’s Armistice tour, he described the studio recording of a song as merely the birth on its road to maturity. Even for an album like Odd Soul that is only a few months old, the live versions already sound a lot more complex.
Plus—and here, the band continues to justify its reputation—these guys know how to entertain live. After seeing MUTEMATH tour every record it has put out so far, I was fairly confident I knew what I’d see at its Seattle stop this year. And mostly, I was right—drummer Darren King gaff taping his headphones to his head before the start of the show, Meany near-flipping over his Rhodes piano, and both of them making trips out into the crowd, commissioning a crowd-sourced solo on the electronic invention they’ve dubbed the Atari. But the lack of surprise—ok, Meany crowd-surfing on an air mattress was a new one—did little to diminish the joy.
Playing the entirety of Odd Soul—highlights included funky single “Blood Pressure” and the beat-shifting “Walking Paranoia”—along with hitting expected cuts from previous albums (“Typical,” “Chaos,” “Spotlight,” and “Reset”), MUTEMATH kept the pace brisk. Truthfully, it’s the band’s rhythm section that really astounds—King’s frenetic drumming and Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas’s bass grooves solidly ground the electro-lite dalliances—but it sure is hard to take your eyes off Meany. There’s no half-assing at all with this guy; he covers every square inch of the stage, and his kinetic showmanship is magnetic.
MUTEMATH’s slickly produced albums are generally worth a look, but the sheer furious energy of their live show is certainly what makes it worth it to keep paying attention.