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Published: 2005/08/08
by Randy Ray

Frances the Mute – The Mars Volta

Universal Records 4129-02

Man, I don't get any of this. Not one damn thing. Mind is startled. Ears are uncomprehending fleshy portals of doom. I just sit here and listen over and over and… are those birds chirping? Pigeons humming? Shut up, ya sky rats! Did someone just shoot a gun over my head? You dumb upstart — I'm Irish, for cryin' out loud. Motherfu— are those guitars? Synthesizers? T-Dream? Radiohead? Eno? Fripp? Phish, circa '99? Is that Fishman on vacuum? What the hell is this shit? Am I scared? Hell no, I'm not scared. Ummm… am I alone in the house right now? Hold on. Alright. I'm back. No, someone else is here in case I need to be taken to the emergency room. I'll look good in a white jacket with buckles — good enough for Jack Nicholson, good enough for me. Is this the audio equivalent of "The Ring"? Am I frightened? Not even, man. Cleverwait, how did they get that weird clicking sound in my left (right? center?) headphone? Outtakes from the Midnight Express soundtrack? Vida Blue on acid?!

The fallen scowled a fence-la sangre comi el cuerpo-taxidermist ruined goose stepped the freckling impatience-cuticle thorns dried-black lungs made of clove splintered shades


And those are the lyrics that I could understand.

I'm just some schmuck who grew up in a San Francisco suburb who is as thick as a plate full of leftover mashed potatoes. HOWEVER, I do know that if you don't like this amazing batch of lumpy gravy, you just don't get IT. I think. Pianos and guitars and drums and more guitars and tangos and very heavy metal and Spaghetti Western funeral march horns and Atom Heart Mother and these go to 11’ and Latin Day of the Dead background music and echoed something-or-other and torn-to-shred riffs and tears of rage and pianos played… well… wrong — like that scene in the new version of The Exorcist where Linda Blair is moving down the stairs like some deformed insect and her arms and legs are just doing something that’s just… well… wrong and seventy-five odd minutes of non-stop post-X Files extremely druggy imagery because look at how they flock to him from an isle of open sores he knows that the taste is such to die for from guitarist and producer Omar A. Rodriquez-Lopez and Plantations of heavy blooze vocals from the Unholy King Madman of Them All — Cedric Bixler Zavala.

A duo called The Mars Volta — Satan's answer to Steely Dan.

Pawn anything you own. Follow them everywhere. Listen to everything. Don't expect answers. Don't expect clarity. For fuck's sake, don't expect sanity.

As a matter of taste, don't expect anything. It is the 21st century, after all.

The songs' are divided into cool little pretentious sub-sections with nifty little post-Latin language eccentricities that echo the (gag) stylings of Yes but seem more akin to the wondrous experimentations of Robert Fripp's King Crimson. But even old Bob never got this far out in space. There isn't a hint of air in this sonic vacuum.


The crafty little hit single from the CD that clocks in at thirteen minutes as it moves from acoustic guitar "Pigs On the Wing" terrain to huge guitar chunks into a wormhole that features chirping birds and random noises to fuck with your head.


I have no idea. Tom Waits is kidnapped and slapped silly while tied to a chair. Perfect.


I don't speak Spanish but I understand the language. This scorcher knocked one of my speakers over. Rodriguez-Lopez plows through his leads with crazy abandon as a rhythm riff dances in the background. Bixler Zavala whispers some sort of burial in my home like it was something I always wanted before sucking on some air pipes. I have no clue, bro, but it sounded very cool. Guitar chords are then chopped up and thrown on the garage floor before a mighty symphony of guitars and drums and organs pop up again out of deep space to attack my pissed speakers. Cats hide, dogs die, mice leave the house.


Dawn of the Dead recast as "Maggot Brain" — sensational and otherworldly as long fingernails scrape the skull with primeval guitar tones.


The coda that explains everything as nothingdeath outlined in a journal found by a dead man: no there’s no light no there’s no time you ain’t got nothing your life was just a lie before we get up and leave the cinematic temple, wits terminated, nerves shot, heartbeat quickened, pulse overloaded, breath unsure after a lifetime of self-confidence — oh, and in the company of an early fave for the greatest rock and roll album of 2005.

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