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The best kept secret in music


"Jersey Independent Music"

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Title: Mutagenic

From: Jersey City. Though I'm pretty sure these guys are originally Atlantans.

Format: Four-song EP. The last track goes on for six minutes, but the other three are pretty short.

Genre: Funky power-pop. I wouldn't have thought so -- I figured with a name like Mutagenic, they were almost certainly an electronica act. Instead, the band treads the territory I associate most closely with the last couple of Chili Peppers albums: guitar pop-rock songs played by a band with a busy rhythm section. The instrumental "Hammurapi's Code" makes overtures toward jazz-fusion, but is really a funk guitar workout.

Arrangements: Traditional power-trio. The guitar player prefers taking leads to chunky chording (and bless him for that), The singer makes like Jimi Hendrix and appears only intermittently, punctuating the grooves with occasional discourse. There are backing vocals on the first and last track, but they're usually in unison, and serve as thickening. An accordion -- or sonething that sounds like one -- joins the power riffing on "Fugitive".

What's this record about?: Showcasing the instrumental expertise of the three bandmembers. Oh, the songs have subject matter, and it's usually direct and legible, but this project isn't about the lyrics. Nominally, "You Want It" is a come on to a woman who, um, wants it, and "Fugitive" is runaway story. "Chicken Hawk" could be about an older man in an S/M relationship with a younger one, or it could just be an incoherent series of threats. It barely matters, because the words are mostly there to call the listener's attention to the instrumental phenomena; i.e., singing "watch yourself, you might get burned", and then playing a fiery riff. There's a long rock and roll tradition of this -- vocal threats and statements made to set up the potency of performances. Jimi Hendrix used to do this, too.

The singer: He's got a tough rock and roll voice, he sings out commendably, and is usually pleasant to listen to. "Fugitive" finds him in grungemeister (or nu-metal) mode, and while he's up to the task, it's not as interesting as the other two performances. While a good shouter, he's a surprisingly unconvincing screamer.

The band: The guitar player is outrageous. Nothing he does is revolutionary, or even startling, but he's so good at the funk-rock basics that he keeps you at the edge of your seat throughout his soloing. There's a moment on "Hammurapi's Code" where he breaks the lead to throw in three high-string chords, and its so harmonically daring that I tip my cap every time I hear it. "Hammurapi" is the guitarrist's showcase, and he makes the most of it: it's probably the most compelling of the four tracks on Mutagenic, and it's the one I think about once the EP has finished. The drummer is antic, energetic, powerful -- he drives these songs maniacally, hammering away at the ride and the kick drum. Parts of "Chicken Hawk" are so dramatic in their double-bass pedal fury that they sound like an animal stampede. The bass player gets a little overshadowed by the instrumental charisma around him, but he (mostly) resists the temptation to slap 'n' pop like Flea.

The songs: "Chicken Hawk" is a weird pop song with some dissonant moments in it -- the guitar stabs away during the verses, and the chords on the release are rough, edgy, jarring. "You Want It" is conventional by contrast -- a pop-rock groove with ony a few showcase-y departures thrown in. The six-minute "Fugitive" is built around a descending chromatic riff, which repeats until it slides into a more complex figure, and a pulverizing chorus. All songs make room for lengthy instrumental sections -- hell, "Hammurapi's Code" is a lengthy instrumental section.

What differentiates this record from others like it? The quality of the perfomances, and Mutagenic's willingness to throw some oddball passeges into their songs. This isn't a band that's afraid to interrupt the flow on the dance floor, or change gears by snapping from a crowd-pleasing hook to an off-the-wall, atonal guitar section. They're very confident in their inerpretive abilities; they know they'll get the groove back whenever they choose to return to it.

What's not so good?: Frat-rock is as frat-rock does. The three members of Mutagenic clearly have big-league aspirations (and big-league talent to match), but they're going to end up scoring Coors commercials if they can't do better than "you wanna lift lift your skirt/you're such a naughty flirt/you know you want it". I acknowledge that lyricism isn't the point of this music, but that which you do say is defining anyway.

Recommended?: My rep is that I'm a words-first song appreciator, and that's true. But sometimes I just like to hear an instrumentalist go hog-wild, and I'm impressed by the talent level in this group. My feeling is that a four-song EP is too short to really get the full experience of the band, but as a teaser and an introduction to the group, this'll do.

Where can I get a copy/hear more?: Try the band's website. Or, just travel out to Bears Stadium in Newark this Friday the 6th: Mutagenic will be playing at the stadium. I'm not sure if they're actually going to be on the field, but minor league promotions are creative, and it wouldn't be the most inappropriate venue for a band with their sights set on the arenas. I particularly like this quote from their press releasem but I'm still working on untangling the syntax: "Professional baseball fans, double your pleasure by seeing the great Ricky Henderson, major league baseball’s all-time leader in runs, steals, walks and HRs as a leadoff batter celebrate Mutagenic’s meteoric rise to Rock stardom and distinction!" Any friend of Rickey's is a friend of mine.

- www.NJ.Com

"It's the Truth I Swear-Rock Reborn in New York"

Please go to the following link to view this review: -


Mutagenic (Self Titled EP)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Mutagenic has been humorously described as Lenny Kravitz times two plus Larry Bird. Their “Rhythm Rock” sound combines Rock, Funk, Pop and Soul with powerful, foot-stompin' grooves and carefully crafted melodies. Their sexy, masculine appeal and ferocious live shows affect audiences in a visceral way.


Gerald Lucas and Amiri Settles founded MUTAGENIC in May of 2001 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Drummer, Shawn Beavers joined the band in February of 2002. MUTAGENIC’s powerful, original music is grounded in rhythm and groove-oriented rock. Lucas and Settles alternate between guitar and bass both live and in the studio to capture the strengths of each musician's distinctive playing style.

MUTAGENIC recently completed their self-recorded and produced EP and are currently gigging primarily in their base New Jersey and New York City area.

Band Profiles

Gerald Lucas began playing guitar and bass after years of training, professional experience and several marquee’ Kennedy Center performances as a classical violinist.

Amiri Settles, a New Jersey native, is a colorful lead guitar and bass player who spent his early playing days honing his chops throughout Atlanta, Georgia’s jam scene, before returning to New Jersey in the late 1990’s.

Drummer Shawn Beavers, a Mississippi native, played extensively with heavy rock and funk bands in the South before moving to New Jersey and joining MUTAGENIC in 2002.