Review Summary: Turn off the moogs and pass the aspirin.
You’d think a name like “Math the Band” would give a lot away about the band itself, but it’s got some ambiguity attached to it. Maybe the group plays, or at least likes, math rock. Maybe it’s comprised of nerds who would sooner mollywhop a calculator than talk to that tall redhead in the back corner of stats class. And maybe, just maybe, the band cleverly bases every piece around the Fibonacci numbers, following the likes of Debussy and Chopin. Unfortunately for Math, only one final possibility holds up: the fun level of its music matches the fun level of actual math, as proven by their far-beyond-irritating debut Banned the Math
. Rife with head-splitting synth lines and some of the least mature lyrics this side of pop, not many albums can hold a torch to its failure to deliver.
Everything Math puts out on this album is tagged by them with the label “music,” which is assumedly a mistake on their part. The album begins with the only possible highlight on the album, Hey Dude, A Prelude,
which reverberates with an uncharacteristically full, yet obviously electronic, chord. Possibly meant to build a false sense of security within the listener, it flows right into a downward spike in quality, and just plummets from there. No song, not even the down tempo Shoeless Wonder,
is safe from the horrendous electronic noises which saturates each song. Annoyance factor is already at about a 4/5 at this point, but Math just have to shoot for the gold; what’s the point of not going the distance, after all? All but two of the songs perform the “instrument” lines at a speed of “too damn fast,” magnifying the irritation caused by whatever pours out of the speakers. Worst of all, though, is the random fuzz Math drops behind some of the tracks. I can think of no logical reason to do something like this and expect the music to sound better. Maybe if this were an ambient record, or had some drone on it, it may help it along, but not in the case of synth-pop.
The only other piece of the ensemble that could ride in and provide any saving grace would be the vocals, but alas, Math can’t have any of that! Lead singer “Kevin” provides a nasally, tweenish-sounding voice to splay all over that gloriously overwrought electro-headache. Shifting often between a typical singing voice, tiny high-pitched warble, and a strained, incredibly odd scream, he gives off the vibe of…well, have you ever heard a dog coughing? And, of course, there are the grand lyrics mentioned earlier, which firmly cement Math in the realm of “kiddy.” One song, Four Square or Square Ball,
pretends that the name of the game is a grave problem, and proceeds to display a one-sided argument over whether balls are square-shaped. It goes on to sample the Star-Spangled Banner, for whatever reason is lost on me, and after a good while, it just repeats the title over and over. Intellectual gold, for sure, but just not what tickles my ivories.
Aside from the marginal praises I’ve given thus far, I can find no area this album excels in. It’s grating, brainless, and an absolute chore to listen to, even for a short period of time. Who knows? Maybe in the future, Math will learn they’re about as annoying as a jackhammer and grow up. Until then, though, Banned the Math
is firmly among the ranks of albums that actually cause me physical pain.