I like rock shows. I go to as many as time, money and energy will allow. Generally I go to see bands I know and love (either personally or by repeated spins on the cd player), but I also love to check out things completely new to me… often by accident or by proximity to some other activity in which I am engaged. It was in this manner that I was introduced to the music of The Mu.
Hanging out in Ballard helping one friend record another friend's live show I caught this then duo + drummer (they have recently added a full-time drummer according to their website). I always like to show up early and stay late at rock shows… you never know when you're gonna find your next favorite band.
The Mu didn't turn out to be that band, but they were uptempo indiepop with a little spiky attitude; lots of fun and very engaging. The highlight of the set was a very catchy song, apparently called "Bye Bye Psycho," featuring the unforgettable lyric: "Bye Bye Psycho/ You kiss my ass/ I'm outta here." It had a lot of energy and a solid mix of earnestness and cheekiness… good times all around. They had a CD available that night, but, alas, "Bye Bye Psycho" was not among the offerings contained thereon.
Fast forward a little over a year and here it is (at last!) on their new EP 3D Feelings. It's the opener, and my favorite song on this, their second release. The good news: the snarky lyric is still intact, the bad news: most of the energy and attitude are missing, both from "Psycho" and from the songs that follow it.
The Mu plays what might be most conveniently termed "lo-fi" indiepop. What do I mean by that? The songs have hooks (some lyrical, some musical), and generally fit within the familiar formats of pop convention, but lack the gloss, sheen and precision of conventional pop music; the music shambles along, a bit unruly, but generally has a naïve and tentative sort of charm.
The Mu are proud of the fact that they have "[written] the songs, performed them, recorded them, released them, etc…", and they should be — this is always a real accomplishment. They also fly the flag for analog tape recording, "partly to avoid any digital manipulations." Again, I sincerely applaud their principles and dedication.
Unfortunately, pop music is most successful when it has some sort of drive or energy, and there seems to be a lack of that on this very self-released, direct-to-analog, "true and unaltered" EP. The naïve charm comes through clearly, due in no small part, I'm sure, to their methods; the pop forms are evident, though sadly the songs slouch.
The Mu play with dynamics a bit, but, as their songs build to "punches," their punches lack… um… punch (ex., track 5 "Chardonnay"). The vocals are traded off between guitarist Myron Basden and bassist Makirh (with Makirh taking the majority of time at the mic), their voices clearly different, yet similar in their lack of pretense and polish.
This is not to say it is bad, rather Makirh's vocals give this release much of the character it has… but, again, there is a dearth of energy in too many places for the EP-on-the-whole to really work. "True and unaltered" is wonderful in theory, but musical Luddism might just be holding The Mu back a bit.
I like The Mu, I really do. When I go to see a rock show, I'm out to have fun, and these guys are a lot of fun live. If they can capture that on record, they'll really have something. As it is… look for them live… make sure you ask for "Bye Bye Psycho."