NOTE: When I don't post as often, these music reviews take up a disproportionate amount of space on my blog. If this whole feature isn't as interesting to others as it is to me, I'm open to two possibilities: either doing it less often (say, every other week) or including a new tag which shows all content but these music reviews, essentially sorting them out. Those interested in my musical proclivities can still click the "Semi-Classic Album of the Week" tag (like the one below) to read only this feature.
The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute (2005)
Progressive rock is nothing new, but few contemporary groups have managed to pull it off as well or as satisfactorily as our favorite bunch of chronic guitar wankers The Mars Volta. So it's undeniable that their second record Frances the Mute is pretentious, like all good prog, but why overlook the genuine talent needed to write lyrics as incomprehensible or melodies as roundabout and affecting as the ones you'll hear on this release?
Even casual fans who find themselves put off by the meandering ambient pieces or some of the album's less-focused bits will find golden moments here. The album's opening track is a hard-hitting torrent of funky, percussive guitar and whimsical, Jabberwocky-style multilingual lyricism, the following track a slick whirlwind of slick Latin licks, "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" heartbreaking, and the 32-minute closing track truly epic, with a repeating chorus that serves to tie some of its slower moments together (and when one of your "slow" moments is a fifteen-minute scraping grind to oblivion, you need that chorus). Only the radio single "The Widow" could have stood to be cut - it's a decent track in and of itself but would have been better as a standalone single like the title track, which would have been included if the world's CD players could handle a commercial CD as long as most feature films.
This band isn't nearly as experimental as they'd probably like to be, and when they try to really push the envelope and be strange they almost uniformly fail, but they're excellent songwriters and they have a great sense of progression which really serves this, their best record. Even the haters might be converted if they get a chance to listen to Frances the Mute on a really, really good stereo - the production values are second to none and they use every inch of available aural space, most of which you won't hear on those ubiquitous white heaphones. Even the ambient pieces settle into their own Dark Side of the Moon grooves once you give them a chance. You really should.
3 hours ago