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Mute Math

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Jan
Mute Math
Sounds like … the driving, jazz-influenced rock of The Police, drawing on the anthemic qualities of early U2, the modern stylings of The Killers, and the electronic experimentation of Earthsuit and RadioheadAt a glance … just shy of the infectious masterpiece that everyone was hoping for, Mute Math's full-length debut still represents the creative salvation of modern rock, both Christian and mainstreamTrack Listing Collapse Typical After We Have Left Our Homes Chaos Noticed Without It Polite Stare at the Sun Obsolete Break the Same You Are Mine Picture Stall Out

When Mute Math released the Reset EP in 2004, nearly everyone who heard it came to the same conclusion—a full-length album could not come soon enough. Adding fuel to the fire was the band's amazing live show, opening for the likes of David Crowder Band, Mae, and Switchfoot throughout 2004 and 2005. Word of mouth spread, and eager fans couldn't get enough as they flocked to the concerts. Music journalists enthusiastically crowned Mute Math the next big thing based on just 30 minutes of music. All waited with bated breath for a year and a half.

Then news hit that Mute Math had split with Word/Warner Records, which caused some temporary concern about their future. The band remains on Teleprompt Records, the fledgling independent Nashville label started by producer Tedd T. (Stacie Orrico, Rebecca St. James), and at this time feel they're doing well enough without major label distribution, thanks to their exposure at

Even though all four members are practicing Christians, they prefer to be marketed as a band, not a ministry. Hence Mute Math's discomfort with the "Christian band" label. But there's nevertheless a spiritual undercurrent to the songwriting, as heard on this much-anticipated full-length effort. Much like Switchfoot, U2, Mae, and Sixpence None the Richer, Mute Math is gifted at using their Christian worldview to initiate soul-searching relevant to everyone.

"Typical," for example, recalls Switchfoot's "Meant to Live" in its pursuit of life's deeper purpose—"I know there's got to be another level/Somewhere closer to the other side/And I'm feeling like it's now or never/Can I break the spell of the typical?" It's hard not to interpret "Chaos" spiritually when it alludes to a steadfast source of security: "I know you stay true when my world is false/Everything around's breaking down in chaos/I always see you when my sight is lost." And "Stall Out" wrestles with hope and uncertainty in the perseverance of life's race—"I keep stalling out/I just can't keep up/There's alarming doubt/Am I good enough?/But you keep coming around to convince me it's still far from over."

While "Noticed" and "Picture" are more straightforward love songs, "You Are Mine" resembles haunting ballads by Sting or U2 that tread close to the sacred, depicting romantic longing for "the prized possession" that gives meaning to life. "Without It" echoes Matthew 6:25-34, encouraging us to shed worry because life is too short. Particularly insightful is "Break the Same," which notes that tears and pain often unite us for better: "It's the sticks and stones that wear us down that often save our lives."

Listeners may debate the lyrical interpretations, but many will agree that Mute Math's strength is their disparate sound. It's progressive from liberal use of electronic samples and effects, yet retro with reliance on Rhodes electric piano, keytar synth, fluid guitar, and a powerhouse rhythm section. Fusing '80s pop/rock and modern alternative with jazz influences and spacey soundscapes, this stylistic mad scientist experiment is a seamless mishmash that's fairly unique, if not wholly original.

The approach yields some strong variation from track to track. "Typical" is anthemic like classic U2, "Noticed" catchy like Men at Work or The Outfield, while "Chaos" recalls classics by The Police like "Omegaman" or "Synchronicity." The jazzy alt-pop feel to Mute Math's "Stare at the Sun" is reminiscent of "Progress" on Reset, not to mention the softer side of their previous incarnation, Earthsuit. "You Are Mine" is appropriately dreamy and intoxicating, almost like a choir in an ancient cathedral, and "Stall Out" finds the right balance of earnest melody, nostalgia, and atmosphere. But if you're really looking for something wild, check out that otherworldly bass and guitar hook in "Break the Same."

Which touches on this album's only real shortcoming. Reset suggested that Mute Math understood the balance between catchy and experimental, but here it sounds like they focused harder on experimentation. Which isn't to say the songs aren't melodic, but they're not as radio-friendly as the EP either—"Chaos" is no "Control." Also, while there is an hour's worth of music, it's an uneven mix of nine songs. Three of the thirteen tracks are brief instrumental intros/links, and "Obsolete" is merely the extended jam for "Stare at the Sun."

All to suggest that this burgeoning band seems destined to outdo themselves with time and experience. Mute Math is on the short list of those operating at the highest level of artistic excellence, and their full-length debut still represents the creative salvation of modern rock, both Christian and mainstream. For fans of the genre searching for inventive sounds and lyrics, this disc is essential.

Editor's Note: As of early 2006, the Mute Math album is exclusively on sale at the band's concerts and at this online store, with hopeful plans to make the CD more widely available in stores in late 2006.

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