Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mute Math's Electrifying Track

I've been asked about my thoughts regarding "Electrify," track 8 on Mute Math's new album, Armistice. I can only assume this is because the song seems to play fast and loose with the tenaciously guarded boundaries of purity as established by conservative ideals. Within the context of pop music in general the lyrics are far from racy and might even pass as wholesome in comparison to most. However, the expressed faith of the band members forces their more conservative listeners into the position of either censors or defenders of the group. Mute Math seems to have struck a sensitive chord here. They seem to be endorsing (or at least depicting) a lifestyle at odds with the values their brothers and sisters, so if they wish to retain communion with the southern conservative church, this song must be defended or rescinded.

Now. A literal reading of the text seems to establish that the poet is captivated by a woman with such intensity that she is in control of the development of the relationship as he is rendered helpless by his infatuation. There are boundaries established which he hopes she will break because he is very pleased with how their chemistry makes him feel. He hopes to convince her to move at a quicker pace very soon. He would like for her to be committed to him. There are sexual undertones. Does this fairly encapsulate what's going on here?

"Electrify" is not exactly the depiction of a healthy, "Song of Solomon" type relationship. It more faithfully evokes a different Solomonic relationship: that of the foolish man and the adulteress as seen in Proverbs 5. It is clear that this portrait of a relationship is at odds with the ideal image. No argument there.

Now before we make a judgment on this piece of art, we first should begin with a few questions:

1.) What does its context say about a piece of work?, and

2.) Is an artist obligated to present a portrait of the ideal at all times?

I hesitate to answer these questions because this is the point at which I might move from general consensus to an offensive position and I try not to be divisive over non-essentials. Nevertheless I was asked, and since we're all on the same team here and agree to play nice, I will oblige.

I believe Milton gave a very accurate picture of Satan in his Paradise Lost and, separated from the whole of the work, the poem could be viewed as a flagrant celebration of the Evil One. Now obviously the differences between Milton's opus and Paul Meaney's pop are magnificent, but I hope you will generously consider the point. The depiction of evil is justified inasmuch as it points clearly to the depravity left in the void of Glory. If you disagree, you throw out the Bible. So does the entire album point to something greater than the sum of its parts? Does the darkness shown in a single track illuminate the brightness of its negative image? I think one could make an argument that it does, but that's not my purpose here.

I will only suggest that the themes of the album and indeed its name indicate the underlying situation of a war. Just listen to the first track. Then the second. Then just keep going. He's not painting a pretty picture here. What kind of grace is it going to take to call a farewell to arms in this chaos? I think Meaney is searching for bigger answers than traditional moralism can provide. Immediately this separates his ends from those of puritan separatists. Meaney is considering himself an apostle to the Gentiles, and their world is a lot messier than the world of their Jewish homeboys. I think Paul is being honest about the thousands of voices of this world and I think he's painting a bigger picture than a single track can contain. Granted, our culture habitually ingests tracks as independent from the whole, but I would argue that his audience is not going to be led astray if they choose to take "Electrify" and ignore the rest of his work. They're already lost. One might say that Mute Math's decision not to be sold at Christian retail outlets was a severing of their association with the church. You can peddle that bull crap somewhere else. We are united by blood, not marketing. I guess what I'm saying is that if someone is offended by his message, they aren't his audience, and he made that fact clear when he decided not to allow his message soil their "holier-than-thou" shelves.

I hope I have communicated myself well, and I pray that my thoughts would be either helpful or forgettable to you in your pursuit of God's glory and His kingdom.

Paul Meaney

She knows every little way to get the thing that she wants.
My heart is an oven, and she’s pushing the buttons right now
She’s gonna kill me with a stare and I’m very aware.
No matter what I say, she’s just walking away right now.
But I’ll be ready when she calls.

I’m in love with this girl, , that’s got my head, Electrified.
I hope that someday she might go too far, Go too far.
Cause all I can think about is me and her, Electrified.
I hope that someday she might take me home, and lose control.

Stall and wait is the game she plays,
She knows better than to try,
But I’m hoping she might wear down.
Oh it’s just tearing me apart getting stuck in the dark.
I’m doin’ what I can,
But she can’t understand right now.
But I’ll be ready when she calls.

I feel it, I feel it, I feel it, I feel it, I feel it, I feel it,
I feel it runnin’ through my bones.

I’m in wires for you girl,
You’re coursing through my mind.
All I think about is you,
Yeah I’m electrified.

Maybe sometime, sometime, sometime.
Say that you are mine, show me, sometime.

You gotta electrify.


Anonymous said...

You know Paul's married, right?

Jonathan Vowell said...

"We are united by blodd, not marketing."

WOW, how many problems in the Church could that little pearl of wisdom fix?

Joshua Andrew Smith said...

I do know that Paul is married. That's why I think he's speaking in another voice to communicate a larger truth than just the exposure of his emotions.