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CMJ Madness: Mute Math Loves Jesus But Isn't Terrible

November 2, 2006 5:38 PM ET

We should probably mention right off the bat that New Orleans foursome Mute Math is kinda sorta a Christian rock band. Despite this, they a) sound nothing like Creed and b) never flat-out name-check Jesus. In fact, the group actually sued their label when they were marketed as Christian rockers, fearing it would limit their fan base. So we're giving ourselves permission to like them. And apparently so are the scores of folks who showed up for their gig at B.B. Kings' Blues Club last night.

For almost two hours, the quartet brought the house down with their emo-meets-Radiohead brand of atmospheric rock, ripping through tunes from their debut album. Frontman Paul Meany (who plays keyboards and a keytar) hopped around stage like a chimpanzee on a sugar high, and drummer Darren King taped his monitor headphones around his head to allow for maximum rocking out. And unlike most every other CMJ act, these guys supplemented their songs with a killer light show: Rows of fluorescent tubes were illuminated behind them, lending them a downright ethereal glow. Praise the Lord, we guess.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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