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The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute

That this record will probably turn out to be the most anticipated of the year says something about The Mars Volta’s musical prowess.

That this record will probably turn out to be the most anticipated of the year says something about The Mars Volta’s musical prowess. Since their last album they’ve been labelled everything from ‘genius’ to ‘saviours of rock’ to ‘utter wank’. Some would even say they were the start of a nu-prog revolution, but the band themselves would be the first to deny it. All of which makes this 5-track, 71-minute something of a phenomenon. Sure, the length of tracks would usually point to an excessiveness of some sort, but the band are marked about their approach to the album, stating that spacing between tracks would be like, ‘watching a movie with gaps in between each scene’. Fair enough…

Opening ‘movement’ ‘Cygnus… Vismund, Cygnus’ begins quietly but soon moves off in a frantic fashion, with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’ choppy spaced-out guitars providing the perfect backdrop for Cedric Bixter-Zavala’s high-pitched barked vocals. It’s fast-paced, energetic even, but quickly the direction changes to something resembling a jam in a Brooklyn back alley; dark and smouldering under crackling street lamps. It’s jams like these which cemented their reputation on the live circuit, acting like a break from song to song, like an endless canvas being painted on by the finest of artists. While some may find them snooze-inducing, for others, this is the stuff of life. And that’s what makes this such a compelling record.

Delving further into the album brings about the wider scale of The Mars Volta’s influences. ‘L’Via L’Viaquez’, sung in a mixture of Spanish and English, is evident of the band’s Hispanic roots and also provides a soulful South American feel to the album, breaking down on occasion into downbeat salsa rhythms. While there are bands who will try and emulate the sound of a genre in order to provide a bit of variety to a record, The Mars Volta are one of the few who sound like its coming from a band who’ve been immersed in the rich cultures of the Latin music scene, instead of a band trying to re-create something they know little about.

This album might not be full of 3-minute pop songs, or even be to everyone’s tastes as a rock fan. However, the fact is that there’s a group of musicians here who have so much chemistry and so much imagination to be able to create these kind of absorbing and concentrated compositions. This album is not about having a favourite song, or picking out the most obvious single, and that’s what makes it all the better. It’s music in a pure and unadulterated form, with a bit more thought than how catchy they have to make the choruses.

Tags: The Mars Volta, Reviews, Album Reviews

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