Review Summary: Catchy enough to be successful but too redundant and familiar to be laudable.
Let's get this out of the way: Mute Math's self-titled debut was nothing remarkable. It presented an ample myriad of various hooks, catchy songs and radio-friendly endeavors but it suffered from an equal amount of repetition, genre-confusedness and overall misdirection. Three years later, Mute Math broaches an expansion of their sound while simultaneously throwing much of their charm to the wind -- the result is 'Armistice'. Containing a balanced dosage of experimentation and standard Mute Math propaganda, the band's latest splurge into alt-rock stardom is an arguably solid but undoubtedly inconsistent dilation of the band's distinctive sound.
This time around, Mute Math employ a few obvious influences in order to sharpen their compositions. For example, the distorted synths and layered vocals of 'Clipping' is almost too blatant of a nod to Muse's 'Map of the Problematique' and 'Backfire' is essentially a disconcerting reiteration of any pop-rock song that cracked the top-40 in the past decade. Hand in hand with the strikingly prominent borrowing-from-influences (plagiarism) is repetition. Dance-y opener 'The Nerve' sets the tone for more than half of the album: half of the album sounds just
like the energetic opener. This act of parroting becomes vocalist Paul Meany's closest companion as he weaves his Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel voice in and out of spiraling synths and guitars with recycled hooks and rehashed melodies while Darren King frantically percusses in a maniacal attempt to hold together the unconventionally structured pop-choruses.
'Armistice' works phenomenally, however, when it's less frantic; when it settles down into "chill mode". Twin tracks 'No Response' and 'Pins and Needles' are mellowed out (for Mute Math, that is) and are legitimately highlights of the album in their languid slurs; the former, a convincing Radiohead impression that plays more like an original than a parody and the latter, a lazy, jazzy number that casually prods it's way to a closing finish. Another steady and infallible element of Mute is the combination of vocalist Paul Meany and drummer Darren King - an unlikely combination but a successful one at that. Amidst the unremarkable bass playing and ultimately forgettable guitar playing, Meany and King are left afloat to lead the songs and they do so dynamically and brilliantly between one's raspy, tenor voice and the other's kinetic, creative drumming.
However, 'Armistice' ultimately feels like Mute Math aimed high and fell short of the mark. Also taking into consideration that Meany said "our goal is to embarrass the first record, that's what we're trying to do here, and I think we're on point to pull it off.
", the lack of inspiration and soul that seemingly plagues the record is even more disappointing. It's a pity that their debut wasn't amazing too, because then I could say that Meany was right about 'Armistice' embarrassing their self-titled record in the same way a pre-pubescent Three Days Grace fan embarrasses a metalhead -- but it's not like those comparisons are remotely relevant. Point is, Mute Math have yet to hit their stride and utilize their potential. Better luck next time, boys.