For the Mathematics - The New Science
If the combination of the band name and the album title is any indication, one would assume this band to be incredibly pretentious and self-conscious. On the contrary though, For the Mathematics' album The New Science
, isn't anything that over the top or ground breaking. It's new only in the sense that the songs aren't covers, because everything found on this album can be located in numerous earlier (and better) bands. Overall, their sound is that of an equal mix of At the Drive-In, Tera Melos, and Franz Ferdinand, and the end result is actually fairly diluted compared to all of those bands' styles. It's difficult to explain without showing exactly where their riffs, fills, etc. come from exactly, so forgive the massive namedropping I'm about to use in order to explain the weird mix that is For the Mathematics.
Firstly, and probably most apparent, the guitars. What we have here is a mix of Hot Cross, Glassjaw, The Fall of Troy and all other riff favoring post-hardcore bands. Every track is covered with riffs that use a lot of pull-offs, hammers, and slides in quick repetition to make accelerated, catchy riffs that are the ear candy of the pieces. However, these riffs aren't as impressive as those of say Hot Cross or Glassjaw, so they depend on other guitar quirks to keep them afloat. They are buttressed by an accompaniment of rather cool, jazzy chords. There are a lot of dominant seventh and sharp 9 sounds that are played quickly and aggressively, which is an interesting dynamic, especially against the more diatonic and catchy riffing. However, this technique is not as original or executed as well as the same techniques found in Tera Melos' or The Mars Volta's music. These feel like the B-list version of the very same awesome premise of having catchy diatonicism against aggressive jazziness. Other bands I feel that are ripped off are Minus the Bear, No Knife, and Owls, for their similar use of catchy, angular riffing in order to propel their songs. The dissonant guitar solos of The Mars Volta also find their way into moments of the album (see Unter Ihrem Sitz).
Secondly, and probably the most impressive, the rhythm section. The bass sounds a lot like that of bands like Frodus, No Knife, Navies, and Fugazi. There's a huge DC sound in the distortion and also the sharp attack and release that gives a pumping sensation to the way the bass is played. It sounds as if it's definitely played with a pick as to get harsher more aggressive sounds. This sound is executed pretty well, and would feel a little banal if were for the awesome drumming. The drums sound a lot like those of Hella, Lightning Bolt, and The Mars Volta. They explode all over the place in very chaotic and energetic ways at absolutely crucial parts of this album, to make the crescendos and intense moments grind really hard, but with a fun, dancy beat. For example, the intro to "Deportation and Return" has a beat I have never heard and pumps up the listener with its weird jutting flow. The drums just complement the bass really well too. The distorted DC tone against, the weird dancy aggressiveness of the drums yields a really cool pounding feel to the songs, which really sets this band apart from all the others it imitates.
Thirdly, and most woefully, are the vocals and production. The reason I lump them together like that is because the vocals are defined by their effects. The whole CD has the compressed, distorted sound of the now incredibly popular style of bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand. And while the actual method of singing sounds more like the erratic insanity of Glassjaw or The Mars Volta's vocals, it ends up sounding like one of those dancy indie bands. The combination of the poor production and the cool vocal aesthetic combine to make something akin to the vocals of Head Automatica: good singer, unfortunate production. The production overall, not just on the vocals, also suffers. I feel like this band drops too many effects around this album. I think they'd benefit from dropping the "new science" sound, and using tones that are grittier. I like the grainy feel of the bass, but the drumming and guitars are way too echoey and phased out. The vocals, which seem attempt that grainier sound, end up feeling more indie than they do old school punk, which is really just me nitpicking, so I'll let it slide. This is a sound we've all heard before, and it's not magically good now that a really capable band has attempted it. It still feels unfortunately stale and overdone.
I guess I've ripped into this CD for its regurgitation of popular songwriting devices a lot, but at least the songs are really fun. I feel like that while they haven't achieved that new science they hinted at with their title, they at least have produced good, solid songs that are good listens for fans of bands like At the Drive-In and No Knife that are broken up or haven't produced new material in a long time. It's too bad that these songs don't stand the test of time and aren't particularly memorable in the context of all the other bands they rip off. I find myself listening to this album every 6 months or so, then feeling contented, and then promptly forgetting about it. Maybe on any forthcoming albums they can tweak their style around and not wear their influences so thinly on their sleeves.