Album: Fuel Yer’ Delusion
Best Songs: Like Mama, Shake It Up, America’s Next Top ______ pt. 3
Strengths: Creative and fresh songwriting, Cool production and overall sound
Weaknesses: Vocals aren’t the best, Album is somewhat chaotic and unrefined
The Mutts are currently a three piece group from Chicago that formed back in 2009 by two members of a prior act called Company of Thieves. The band consists of Mike Maimone on keys and vocals, Bob Buckstaff on bass, and currently Chris Pagnani on drums. Over the past six years, The Mutts have gone through a series of lineup changes and have performed with various musicians in the Chicago scene. Maimone graduated from the University of Notre Dame in accounting, yet put aside a job in finance for music. Since his decision, The Mutts have had three EP releases. In addition, this full length album, “Fuel Yer Delusion”, will mark their fourth LP release, the most recent being “Object Permanence”, which was released April of 2013. “Fuel Yer Delusion” was released December of last year, due to kick starter pledges that raised enough money for the band to make the album.
The Mutts sound on this album could best be described as “eclectic rockabilly fuzz with alternative tenancies”. Its quite a lot to wrap your head around, I’m sure, but “Fuel Yer Delusion” has such a unique brand about it that there is no real simple way to classify their work. The recordings themselves sound very raw, stripped down, and have a trademark crudeness to them that really works well considering Maimone’s guttural raspy vocals and fuzzy keyboard tones. Probably one of the best examples of the overall spontaneity and raw power on this album is the tune “Shake It Up”, an upbeat jam-like song with a busy keyboard and some pretty aggressive drums. Everything about the track, especially some of the inflection in Maimone’s vocals and the general movement of the tune with the keyboard lines all remind me of the classic, fuzzy, off the cuff rockabilly recordings that made Sun records famous. Even the name of the tune, “Shake It Up” is reminiscent to those old piano masher slick-your-hair-back-and-fire-away rockabilly jams. Yet, by that same merit, this album can’t really be pinned down to that category because all the songs usually differ quite greatly from one another. For example, the track “Like Mama” is one of the songs on this album that is actually quite a departure in that it has soft and tender qualities about it that really highlight some of the great aspects of Maimone’s voice and songwriting work. “Fuel Yer Delusion” goes from super fuzzy, crunchy, and aggressive to a pure, raw clean, yet it still maintains a common brand about it that just seems really creative and fresh, even if it is a little unorthodox.
Maimone’s vocals are quite interesting indeed. The best example of his voice would be on songs such as “Like Mama” and “America’s Next Top _____ pt. 3”. He can have a very rich and warm lower register, but a lot of the time on this album the vocals tend to favor plunging into a void of raspy chaos that swirls around fuzzy keyboards, aggressive drums, and a really crunchy bass. Couple this instrumentation and singing with the fact that the production, while unique and stripped down, is still a little harsh and crude. The point is that tracks can end up sounding like a thrown-together patchwork of aimless fuzz and raspy ambiance that sounds more like a chaotic random jam as opposed to an actual focused effort to record a concrete song. The Mutts sound and attitude toward music is quite reminiscent of old, crude, we don’t give a #$@! punk bands like The U-Men. The compositions are spontaneous and energetic, yet somewhat lack any kind of common ground or studio tweaking to the point where everything sounds like really really loud fuzz amid aimless guttural vocals. Then again, that sound and that approach to recording is arguably what made early punk bands like The U-Men so influential and to see bands like The Mutts implementing that sound demonstrates its longevity.
“Fuel Yer Delusion” is quite an interesting and eclectic album. There is a lot of great lyrical content in here, and if you are comfortable with tunes that are a little chaotic, there is definitely a lot to see. The production of this album is pretty raw, but it was done in a tasteful way that shouldn’t be too distracting for the average person. Overall, these guys are good songwriters with decent musical chops that have created an unorthodox, yet somewhat innovate record that has quite a bit of value.