The Mars Volta
Frances The Mute


ew would have guessed that after six years of playing loose-limbed and highly-constructed, upbeat post-hardcore songs in At the Drive In that some of its former members might want to play loose-limbed and highly-constructed post-prog suites. But here we are with the only prog band that matters (Radiohead doesn’t count). The only band big enough for people to care if they make an album composed out of one song seventy-six minutes long (it’s actually broken up into, alternately, five suites on the record’s tracklisting and twelve tracks on the actual CD, but who’s counting when you’re sitting in your room with your buddies and sharing a joint and listening to this thing, eh?).

And while you can level all the limp-wristed “it’s too involved,” “it’s too masturbatory,” “the lyrics are too incomprehensible” criticisms at this thing you want, you’re completely missing the point because you’re exactly right. When you’re creating a sonic world or a song-suite seventy-six minutes long, things are bound to get a bit self-indulgent and incomprehensible. Come in if you want, but don’t bang at the door deriding those that want to bother investing the precious hour watching two reruns of The Office.

But also don’t bother those who want to wander in off the street, pay attention for a bit and then leave and maybe come back later. Because Frances the Mute isn’t just for the great washed rockist masses. In equal turn there are hard-hitting rock songs that pound the listener in their immediacy and electronic experiments worthy of the digital distractions proffered by Oval before he gave up music for video-game playing. Hell, maybe he’s listening to this thing while he’s playing the latest Resident Evil. And why not? Even dour Germans have occasion to dance to this flailing Latin-tinged beautiful mess of an album.

That’s what you’ll find yourself unconsciously doing during the heavier parts of “L’Via L’Viaquez,” which give off a distinct Led Zeppelin meets Santana vibe in places, until the dream is squashed in a haze of electronics, leading…right back to where you started, which looking back on it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Conversely, right after that, you get the best Silver Mt. Zion track never made in “Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore.”

Let’s put it this way: Whereas the somewhat timid and searching De-Loused in the Comatorium was all about surprising audience, critic, and probably the band itself, Frances the Mute is a self-assured organic animal that should come as no surprise to anyone. Perhaps not the culmination of their work, it’s a strong step towards it and a great listen.

Reviewed by: Sarah Kahrl
Reviewed on: 2005-03-02
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