If one needed further proof of the contemporary revival/reassessment of the ambitiously overwrought sensibilities once so reviled in '70s rock, this aggressively mindbending second album by the Mars Volta offers it up in spades. Band mainstays Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala insist that labels like "prog" don't interest them, and that this is emphatically not a "sequel" to 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. What it is was thematically inspired by a stranger's diary allegedly found by late bandmate Jeremy Ward, the basis for an expansive, often amorphous musical head-trip that brews psychedelia, trance, hard-rock and free-jazz into a daunting new whole. The dozen tracks here represent but five "songs" proper, though the band's disdain for conventional track banding inspire it to sound more like a stream-of-consciousness soundscape from Can--or a dark, lyrically inventive, if decidedly troubled corner of their ids. On the "Umbilical Syllables" portion of "Cygnus.." and "The Widow" Bixler-Zavala invokes the wailing, Led Zeppelin II & III spirit of Robert Plant set against a feverish, swirling melange that's anything but the blues. The vocalist coaxes "L' Via l'Viaquez" en Espanol, while his band indulges its space-mambo conceits with an evocative spirit that recalls Latin Playboys at their most mischievous. It's an album that loops back on itself in a haunting ellipse--and one whose boundless ambition makes Pink Floyd sound like three-chord bar punters by comparison. --Jerry McCulley
The Mars Volta hit the jackpot with their debut -- a thrashing, hypnotic, hallucinatory sprawl of prog-rock. People loved it, and many said it was genius. Which, of course, makes the expectations for Album No. 2 even higher -- how can you capture lightning in a bottle more than once?
"Frances the Mute" does a pretty good job of doing just that. Without sacrificing the creepy overtones and wild sound, the Mars Volta opts for a new, stranger sound that is a bit less rock and a bit more prog. "L'Via L'Viaquez" has a sizzling riff that is louder than anything else on the album, while "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" sounds like a metal band going slowly insane.
Not that they've lost their metal/funk/punk/Latin/experimental edge -- some parts of it are just more prominent. Mostly it's the prog and funk... and just try to imagine what that sounds like. Songs like the half-hour "Cassandra Gemini" happily flit from one style to another, with a sense of true rock grandeur, while songs like "Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" has an ambient flavor.
Perhaps the one problem is that instead of one sprawling concept album, like their first, this is apparently multiple "acts" put together. A few songs simply putter out, like lackluster "The Widow." But the explosive energy of almost every other song is enough to make up for "The Widow's" flaws.
In a nutshell, you don't know what to expect from the Mars Volta in any given song. They can draw you in with a simple riff or quiet melody, before launching into a screaming, frenetic jumble of Latin-prog-psychedelica-acid-jazz. It's dizzying; the instrumentation is as wild and abstract as their dark, bizarre songwriting. Their lyrics are a bit reminiscent of Burroughs, and deliver a visceral punch even if they don't make sense.
One thing that has changed is the song length; if the Mars Volta keeps this up, their future albums will have to be double or triple discs. Many songs are over ten minutes, and one is over half an hour. A few songs could definitely have used some trimming, and it has a somewhat looser feel than their first album. But most of the songs manage to do justice to their length -- lots of explosive riffs and sharp drumming, paired with some weird keyboard noises and wailing vocals.
"De-loused in the Comatorium" was an outstanding space-prog-Latin-jazz-rock album, and "Frances the Mute" does a good job of following up on it. It lacks the tightness of the Mars Volta's first album, but is a good collection in its own right.
With their latest release, the Mars Volta have solidified their position as one of the most musically audacious bands in the mainstream today. Continuing in the epic progressive nature of their previous release, "Deloused in the Comatorium", "Frances the Mute" sees the band pushing the boundaries even further, making for a somewhat jarring but undoubtedly engaging listen.
The album begins with "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus", a sprawling 13-minute epic. The song sort of builds up in reverse, firing out of the gate with wild jazzy time changes, eventually melting into spacious guitar melodies, and finally concluding with an odd electronic bit.
From there, the album mainly continues in the multi-part epic fashion, with the exception of the more radio-friendly ballad "The Widow". Much like "Televators", from "Deloused...", this song serves as a brief respite from the musical madness. However, it ends with a long, ambient outro that goes on for a bit too long, and drags the song out a bit more than it really needs to be.
"L'Via L'Viaquez" is perhaps the highlight of the album, boasting a strong Latin influence. The song is filled with scintillating salsa-esque rhythms, adding a catchiness to the wild, technical jazz structures, and features lyrics both in English and Spanish. At 12 minutes in length, the song goes by surprisingly fast.
The remaining two epics, "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and "Cassandra Gemini", delve even deeper into unpredictable weirdness. Each is spread over several tracks, totaling at around 27 and 20 minutes respectively.
The jazz influence in these songs is taken to even greater extremes, featuring trumpet, flutes, and saxophone (Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea even contributes some nice trumpet work). Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's jagged guitar rhythms and Jon Theodore's octopus-like drumming are showcased here like never before, and the high-pitched cathartic wails of frontman Cedric Bixler Zavala anchor it all very nicely.
Combining jazz and rock stylings hasn't been commercially viable since the 70's, but these guys put an extremely fresh and exciting spin on it, and manage to sound very natural and cutting-edge in the process. The music seems rather chaotic at first, but for the most part, everything flows together very well.
I realize this previous description was a bit vague, but the reason is that there is so much going on in these two songs, it is extremely difficult to put it into words. It's really something you just have to hear for yourself.
Epic, unpredictable, and quite intense, the Mars Volta are most certainly not for the faint of heart. However, those who appreciate progressive rock, or any daring and challenging style of musical art will find great worth in this, one of the best and most exciting releases of the year.
i reviewed de loused in the comatorium and thought this deserved a review as well. the mars volta is so different from most other music out there and the first time i heard them i was hooked. i would suggest listening to some tracks before buying because the vocals aren't for everyone. i once heard someone say, "the vocals are like nails on a chalkboard", and i will admit they are not for everyone. i personally took to them and consider TMV one of my favorites these days.
Put together Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew", Led Zeppelin's "II" and "III", and King Crimson's "In The Court of King Crimson", and you get "Frances The Mute". My favorite Mars Volta album so far, but all of them are amazing. Could be very very strange for listeners who never listened to this kind of music. To me, this album resembles "Bitchs Brew" alot (not just in the music itself, but the way it was received by the public - you either hate it or love it).
The Mars Volta has an uncanny way of taking old rock styles, jazz, even metal in some light, and making it new, better and more amazing than it could've ever gotten without them. They have brought Pink Floyd back together metaphorically speaking, as well as led-zeppelin, countless jazz bands, and anything else holy in music except for a low voice and brought it to the public. Ever instrument played is played to its fullest in some form or another, and even the computerized parts tie it all together. This album is a monument to what is good in music, and its a damn shame they had to take it all apart for "Amputechture."
just listen to it and see what you think...., January 23, 2007 A Kid's Review Although this is in my opinion a very good album it would be unfair for me to give you a raving review of this CD based on my sole opinion so I've decided to just write down a description of all of the songs:
1.Cygnus Vismund Cygnus: This is one is pretty rockish and has some pretty good guitar playing throughout. It's pretty long, lasting about twelve minutes or so, and the last two minutes are pretty much just odd sounds.
2.The Widow: This one's pretty mellow compared to the first song and makes a fairly good use of the bass. Also, there's a nice guitar solo with a mixed-in trumpet solo. The last two minutes are just weird sounds but the songs only about five or so minutes.
3.L'via L'viaquez:40 seconds of sound that quickly builds up to this latin-rock tune. A couple guitar solos throughout the song are featured as well as the salsa pianist Larry Harlow toward the end. It's about thirteen minutes but go ahead and skip if you want at about eleven minutes.
4.Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore:4 minutes of ghost sounds and then the song begins with Cedric's amazingly high vocals. Listen to the strings and trumpet solo towards the end. I thought it was worth the wait.
5. This one sounds like a sci-fi rock band type thing. Weird lyrics throughout the song but that goes for every other Mars Volta song.
6. This song has a rather driving pulse.
7. This one's short and begins with Cedric's vocals plus a repeated brass theme which blends into....
8.....a riff which I believe is in 6/8 and then some more solos on guitar.
9.A very repetive bass line that is by far the mellowest thing on the album that lasts about 5 minutes.
10.Begins with some odd guitar sounds along with the usual recording studio knob experimentation which then begins as a three and half minute saxophone featurette.
11. A brief thirty second repetition of a theme sung in #5.
12. The closer which is basically the same thing as the first 40 seconds of the album.
I'm not one to say that this album was the world's greatest work of art but it is definitely worth listening to musically. Cedric's high vocals are a definite plus even though I think his lyrics are nonsense except for maybe a few lines throughout. I don't see why people hate his high vocals because they are still fairly good and, though odd, are the mark of a profound talent few are allowed to have. Also, Omar's guitar playing is a bit strange at times but his musical expression is so original and creative that one cannot wonder if the man is genius or just a very persistent man in his musical ability. There are times when I cannot stand certain elements of the album, but if you stick around and wait and
LISTEN then you will hopefully hear something worthwhile. A good 15-20 minutes can be shaved off the album and maybe the lyrics could be changed but this is a definitely a MUSICAL work worth listening to.