The Mars Volta
De-loused In The Comatorium


hat glorious opening- how else could I react?- as "Son Et Lumiere" begins- muted white noise, like for one glorious moment, the monotony of the world becomes autonomy with the trickling arpeggios, seeping in- this is the music. Fuck !!!— this is what it means to be alive- Bixler’s marvelous voice held back—synthesized, but wanting desperately to break out- and the drum snippets attack, and attack, and attack, and then—

"Now / I’m / lost.” Snares announce the opening into a brave new world where power chords slice and dice over broken-down anti-climactic guitar riffs, a glorious mess of what we knew becoming the frontier for a brave new rock ‘n roll.It makes no difference to me what Bixler said. It was his voice, a howl that brings to mind Mackaye, Yorke, Francis, Buckley, and the voices of a generation, joining together in a unity.

As such, "Inertiatic ESP" was incredible. I wanted to do, I wanted to scream in joyous recognition of a frustration that surely haunts every adolescent, and to eat, and to have the wildest sex in my dreams I’ll ever have, and to kill, and to run far away, and to play a song for everyone that surely destroys anything they’d ever heard.

The problem? Such urgency cannot be held up for sixty-one minutes. Such passion, unbridled guitar noodlings weaving their way into a thunderous primal attack cannot shine through forever. And two minutes and five seconds into the most wonderful thing I’d ever heard since another cousin of discontented funk—Entertainment!—the plan had been lost, and then, then the guitar noodlings became the song. A completely fucking different slice of music entered and it suddenly became clear: The Mars Volta are not simply content with rocking and thrashing and reaching cosmic moments; no, they want to explore these moments in a perfectly wonderful pop song and turn that moment into a meandering epic.Which ultimately makes De-loused In The Comatorium a disjointed mess- brilliant songs gone so awry that I find myself no longer excited by the prospect of listening to the album through, but disappointed. They will certainly make their masterpiece one day- they could even make something approaching Nevermind, but this isn’t it. Until then, all we have is now (moments).

These moments rarely amount to songs- you find yourself less listening to tracks, as opposed to De-loused In The Comatorium, the full fucking trip. "Tira Me A Las Aranas" is no longer a minute-and-half ambient transition, but a part of the record, a logical step from hazy prog to the next step ... the next rung of excitement."Roulette Dares (This Is The Haunt)" begins with funky-as-shit guitar wailings, and god dammit, I can see those ‘fros flying through the air when the organ aligns on the A and those just brilliant moments come. Nothing new, just—the genre is being pushed, rock is funky again, like a retro-throwback far more subversive than any garage revival will ever understand.

It is when the six-minute track concludes with a two-and-half minute prog guitar solo that its mode of operation reveals itself: the album is made up of discrete moments, locked in time. The guitar solo, the jazz-dub section, the thrash movement, the solo vocal part. And, in most cases, it adds up to a far greater sum than its parts. Each moment is a puzzle piece, attempting to fit as well as it can in the larger picture. When it fits- its brilliance puts to shame the entirety of the music world. When it doesn’t- it’s nearly painful to listen to, making me feel that perhaps Bixler and company are just simply trying too hard.

The album, apparently, is about a close friend of the band who committed suicide, and is the story of his post-life. Fucking whatever. The specific moments where I don’t care about death or whatever—"who brought me here?" "Is anybody there?"—the anxiety of life, that’s when the lyrics matter. But really, in a sonic landmark, words don’t mean anything, they’re texture, they sound great on the tape.

As does most of this, but it’s not perfect. So I sit here already eagerly awaiting the next Mars Volta album, and their sure-to-be-phenomenal live show. Until then, cherish this album—kind of.

Reviewed by: Sam Bloch

Reviewed on: 2003-09-01

Recent Reviews By This Author

The Beta Band - Heroes to Zeros
Enon - Hocus Pocus
Phantom Planet - Phantom Planet
2003 Year End Thoughts - Sam Bloch
Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash

Log In to Post Comments
Posted 04/21/2004 - 02:11:47 PM by TysonT:
 Lots of horribly written knee-jerk responses have been written on this album; splayed to both extremes of the spectrum, but this is the most well-centered and objective review I've read yet.
Posted 01/19/2005 - 05:48:31 PM by patient:
 this is a great review. i love the mars volta and couldnt quite put into words what isnt amazing about them, and this review definitely got it right. i'm not saying i dont love this band crazily, i would have given it an A probalby, but this review is very fair.
all content copyright 2004