MUTEMATH has spent much of the past ten years just on the outskirts of rock superstardom, entertaining fans with their own uniquely blended brand of alternative rock. Their new record Play Dead embodies their creative spirit by drawing from a more expansive range of genres than ever. Experimental features are present but there is also an overarching approachability to the record. This makes Play Dead oddly catchy despite the jarring samples and strange sounds with which it is littered. MUTEMATH has not necessarily created or honed in on a distinct sound of their own but they are toying with genre and emotion in a creative and rare way, still rooted in strong alternative rock.
From jazz inspired riffs on the records first single “Hit Parade” to the almost funk build on “Stroll On”, there is groovy eccentricity to the guitars on the record. At times, they sound like a jam band or prog rock act purely because of the quickly changing elements used. For those interested in simple pianos and heartfelt nostalgia, “Nuisance” and “Placed on Hold” could become favorites. Modern alternative rock can be heard more clearly on “Pixie Oaks” while “Stroll On” is more about timeless quirky pop.
MUTEMATH has never been afraid to play with pop sounds. There is a 1980s pop feel on “Break the Fever” while “Everything’s New” has a modern R&B tinged modern feel. Now, MUTEMATH is clearly also just as comfortable using classical elements like the harps on “Stroll On” and the pianos on symphonic closing slow dance “Marching to the End.”
These elements are successful together because they are not just blended but also juxtaposed to create contrast and interest. There is a stark contrast established between melodic traditional elements and more avant garde and dissonant sounds on Play Dead. Harsh, strange sounds exist alongside sing-along ready yeah-ahs and la-la-las. The best example is “Everything’s New,” which has the most bizarre and dissonant intro and outro on the record sandwiching a modern pop track that could pass for The Weeknd or Bruno Mars.
The lyrical subject matter of Play Dead is far more simple and grounded than the instrumental. The lyrics explore existential distress that is personal but still focused toward the audience. On “Break the Fever” lyrics like “my head is burning up from all the voices jammed inside it” communicate the struggle of feeling like one has monsters in their head. “War” also expressively communicates the idea of overpowering the stress and conflict faced in life while “Achilles Heel” discusses the inability to cheat death, appropriately enough, towards the records closing.
Though there are not many tracks on Play Dead with major potential as singles, there is something to be said for the massive amount of experimentation MUTEMATH did on the album. No matter what genre you are a fan of, there is sure to be something on this record that will allow you to tap into the their message personally and relate, if only for a song or two. Clearly MUTEMATH is not settling into any particular sound, but in this case, being a little all over the place works.
MUTEMATH plays the Wiltern on October 13th. To purchase tickets, click here! Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a ticket giveaway!