If you even casually read Midwest Action, you know damn well how much we love Mutts. If you’re new here, uh, spoiler alert: we all love Mutts.
In September, the Chicago-based rockers released Stick Together, a great jumping on point if you’ve missed the last near-decade of work from lead singer and piano man Mike Maimone. The EP kicks off with “I’ll Be Around,” where the trio (Bob Buckstaff on guitar and Chris Pagnani on drums) dreams up a swooning, bluesy declaration of love. Maimone makes use of some beautifully simple metaphors to get his points across, opening with the gem Once I caught a stream/ I held it in my palm/ There, it ceased to be/ A word struck from a psalm. His message is hammered home with a gospel-infused crescendo that includes a radiating Hammond B3, splashing percussion and a warmth of back-up vocals. The song inspired one of the best videos of the year, also directed and edited by Maimone.
“Neighbor” creeps in next with muted, nervous guitars, paced by the casual stomp of Pagnani’s drums. Singer Jennifer Hall joins Mutts for this one, delivering her verse with a haunting smokiness that carries the same hint of desperation found in Maimone’s crooning. At about the 2:50 mark the band switches gears and decides to jam behind a flamethrower guitar solo from Buckstaff.
The tone shifts again on “Let’s Go,” a fist-pumping anthem with a bouncing beat and easily shoutable chorus. It’s a kick-ass rock n’ roll song with all the trimmings- crunchy guitars, bar room piano and a strange guest verse courtesy of Archie Powell. “Tin Foil Hat” is a bruiser that’s built to be played live and loud, and Mutts nailed it in terms of capturing that feeling when they laid this down at Audiotree. I suppose then that this would be the appropriate time to credit Rick Fritz, who recorded, mixed and mastered Stick Together. The band sounds like they’re chugging through the grunge of “Don’t Touch It” at the Crocodile in ’91, while also sounding like they could have recorded “I’ll Be Around” inside that church from the video. No small feat.
Mutts has delivered us some much needed feel good here, in five different flavors. Looking forward, it’ll be interesting to see how they balance this variety of styles, because I’d be as happy with a full-length punk record from these guys as I would straight piano-driven blues. One of the most impressive things about this EP is that it kinda satisfies cravings for both. If you’re hearing about Mutts for the first time, this is a perfect EP to snag. If you like it, have fun pouring through their back catalogue.
Old fan or new, you can check out Mutts this Saturday night (12/16) as they celebrate the release of Stick Together at the Hideout (9 PM, $10, 21+) Tickets. Stick Together is available for purchase here. Other tour dates below:
12/14 Madison, WI @ The Frequency
12/15 Davenport, IA @ The Raccoon Motel
12/16 Chicago, IL @ The Hideout Inn
1/11 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
1/12 Indianapolis, IN @ Fountain Square Brewing Company
1/13 Louisville, KY @ The Living Room Series
1/17 Columbus, OH @ The Spacebar
1/18 Brooklyn, NY @ The Knitting Factory
1/19 Fredericksburg, VA @ Colonial Tavern
1/20 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
1/21 Youngstown, OH @ Cedars West End
2/9 Fort Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail