Taking you from fear to frivolity, Mutes release new single ‘Barely Living Proof’

Words by Ed King / Photos by Sam Wood – artwork by Megan Henebury

“Dog-sick with the possibility of another failed escape.”

When you read the lyrics to Mutes’ latest single, ‘Barely Living Proof’, it does not bode well. Beginning with “Force fed eyes” and ending with “Young violence speaks our fall to ruin” you’d be justifiably left a little concerned.

It’s just Mutes, I say, as I contemplate Googling the Samaritans hotline and frontman James Brown’s Facebook profile. No, no. It’ll be fine… let’s just see when he posted last.

But the audio reality of ‘Barely Living Proof’, self-released by Mutes on Friday 29 March, is actually quite joyful. Seriously. Oddly. Joyful. Its message might be the blood-based scrawling of a tortured soul but the tune itself is considerably more blissful.

Sure it’s gritty, dark; a wounded animal in a corner, with vocals that appear to have been sung whilst being suffocated. But it hops, skips, punches, and jumps forward with an almost spring in its step. And as strange as it sounds, The Monkees and The Velvet Underground both crept into my head on the first listen.

Starting with a spangly indie saunter, to expand the metaphor, ‘Barely Living Proof’ builds into more of a determined march over the first half of the track.

Then – at the line at the start of this review – breaks clean in two, leaving fragments of the first half hanging in the air… only to be thrust back together for about a minute and a half of angsty noise rock with a ‘Starla’/Smashing Pumpkins elongated end. And there I go with comparisons again.

But it’s good, really good. Purple prose and clever tropes aside. And if words ‘aint your thing…

The third offering from Mutes’ upcoming album, …buried where you stand, scheduled for release on 17 May this year, ‘Barely Living Proof’ was also recorded at Megatone Studios – Mark Gittin’s musical play pen found lurking beyond the urban wasteland that was once Birmingham Wholesale Markets.

And whilst that may not be the official Google Maps list of directions for the birthplace of Mutes’ new baby, we felt it fits the tone.

Following singles ‘Televangelist’ and ‘Mere Slaughter’, released in Nov ’23 and Feb ’24 respectively, ‘Barely Living Proof’ is in our modest opinion the best yet – carrying with it the sound and scope of the two first releases, but coming in at a considerably longer 4mins 10sec and with an ineffable edge that just gives it the win.

Mutes are no stranger to building tension and, after quite a sharp introduction with ‘Mere Slaughter’, this may well have been the plan all along.

But all three singles are laying a very promising path to …buried where you stand. And if their nine brothers and sisters share even a bit of the family features then there’s going to be significantly impressive album out this May.

We’ve long said it, but Mutes are one of the more pertinent musical outfits to come from Brummagem – and this latest studio album is already looking dangerously promising.

Plus, always worth watching live, Mutes will be showcasing their new album at the Hare and Hounds (Venue 2) on 22 May – with Spits Milt and Stay In Nothing as support. Click here for more info and link to online ticket sales.

Mutes release …buried where you stand on 17 May. For more on Mutes visit www.mutesuk.bandcamp.com