The Mathletes – Fort Awesome

The Mathletes
Fort Awesome

The Mathletes don’t want to grow up. It’s clear from every aspect of Fort Awesome that the band doesn’t care for life after age 8. Before you even hear the music you get a feel for what’s inside by looking at the album cover: a cutesy, hand-drawn cartoon of a duck, a cat, and maybe a robot. I believe that these characters are meant to represent the three members of the band.

The music consists of cheesy Casio beats (thus the pseudonym of one of the members: Cassie O’Presets), nasally vocals, some keyboard riffs, and occasional guitar. The subject matter of the songs ping-pongs between the absurd (n.b., “Joe Mathlete Reflects Raisins and Mortality (Mostly Raisins)”) and the juvenile (“Grownupland”). And they seem to get a lot of mileage out of both. The bedroom/basement/couch quality of the recording suits the subject matter and the band’s focus, to be sure. You can’t dress this stuff up too much, and you certainly don’t want to commit thousands of dollars to recording songs that work better as personal, low-fi, stream-of-consciousness ditties.

The single-minded approach to these tunes wears thin pretty quickly. I know that the schtick and the amateurish songwriting is intentional, but that doesn’t mean it has much lasting value beyond a few spins. I’m all for quirky music and self-expression, but I’m more partial to Devo than Ween. Sometimes juvenalia can’t carry a whole album, but sometimes it becomes the foundation of a successful career (I’m looking at you, They Might Be Giants). So unless your Peter Pan complex is of Michael Jackson proportions, this album will probably annoy you more than it makes you laugh.