Mutemath is in a good place. With a Grammy and three albums, it seems that the band is doing well for themselves. Mutemath plays like old pros, with plenty of live talent backing up their production quality, particularly on their latest album, Odd Soul (2011). The album marks a change for the band, not just in replacing guitarist Greg Hill, but expanding both in musical and thematic range. Perhaps most notably, Odd Soul finds Mute Math subtly exploring issues of faith.
Though their interplay with faith has been relatively obscure (many point to some band members’ brief stint in Earthsuit, an experimental CCM band), Odd Soul finds King and Meany processing more directly with their Christian upbringing. In an illuminating article from Relevant Magazine, band members Darren King (drums), Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas (bass), and Paul Meany (singer/keyboard) describe their experiences of southern Christianity, thematically channeled for the first time in Odd Soul.
While their latest work maximizes their musicianship, Mutemath also share some of their childhood stories, especially their own unique experiences with faith. Repression, alienation, conformity, paranoia; these threads make up the album’s theme of “peculiar faith.” Songs like “Blood Pressure” and “Walking Paranoia” recall the trappings of conformity many adolescents experience. Beginning with jangly guitars imitating the feeling of nervousness, “Walking Paranoia” illustrates the struggle between desire and repression, especially with faith.
I am a nervous wreck
Jesus is coming back
Gonna catch me at the porno rack
I’m about to have a heart attack
Another thematic thread found in Odd Soul is standing strong with your decisions. “All or Nothing” finds Mutemath taking a break from intense jam sessions to showcase a more chill, tender song about the decisions and avoiding regrets:
Don’t waste a whole life
On just a half try
It’s all or nothing
It’s these strands of peculiar faith and life decisions that ultimately make up the album’s main theme: the journey of identity, particularly in relation to faith. The album throughout makes mentions of roads and travelling, using them as metaphors for one’s journey of identity. This often means reconciling your strange self with the world’s pressures as you forge your own identity, often resulting in finding your own individual path. One look at the title and album art of Odd Soul should make it clear: under the Southern gothic veneer lies turbulent thoughts of an odd soul.
“Cavalries” ties this all together:
Haven’t you suffered enough
On the straight and narrow
Stand on your own
Perhaps it was inaccurate to say Mutemath is in a good place. Rather, they are consistently moving towards synthesizing ways to explore areas of faith through their own form of artistic expression. They illustrate that this journey of identity in relation to social pressures and faith often leads to making a new path, something the band assures us is not a bad thing at all.
I’m an odd soul
Ah, yes an odd soul
Walk on side roads
‘Cause that’s the only way I know
- Jacqueline Ristola