The Mars Volta
Frances the Mute


5.0
classic

Review

by Jared W. Dillon USER (118 Reviews)
February 13th, 2005 | 1387 replies | 92,474 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


19 of 22 thought this review was well written

Frances the Mute
The Mars Volta

On this recording the Mars Volta is:
- Omar a Rodriguez-Lopez
- Cedric Bixler Zavala
- Jon Theodore
- Juan Alderte
- Isaiah Ikey Owens
- Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez

At the Drive-in is in many eyes one of the most influential, original, and best bands of the late 90s and early 00s. Breaking up after beginning to receive props for the intense and unique musical feel, many fans were left clueless too what would be the lost members call to return to music. While half of the band was stuck in the past delusions of recreating the special sound that ATD-I possessed, the bands lead vocalist and guitarist Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez moved on to greater things. Collecting members from past bands and experiences Jon Theodore, Jeremy Ward, and Ikey Owens were all enlisted into playing with the newly formed Mars Volta. Playing various live shows during 2001 with then bassist Eva Gardener The Mars Volta quickly established themselves as a unique and interesting band. Blending there previous intensity with new found jazz and Latin influences the Mars Volta was creating a new sound for the almost Extinct genre known as Progressive Rock. Releasing their first recording the EP 'Tremulant' in 2002, the work was met with rave reviews from fans and critics alike. One part intense prog. Punk and one part ambient, sampled sections, the stage was defiantly set for a mind blowing debut album.

However, Eva Gardener left before recording was finished on the first release, thus Flea of the famous band and pervious touring mates The Red Hot Chili Peppers stepped on bass for TMV's debut album. Another member of RHCP, John Frusciante would do some guitar work along with a 100 treatment on 'Deloused in the Comatorium'. Also Jeremy Ward, sound manipulator of the Mars Volta passed away due to a drug overdose before the album was release too stores. 'Deloused' was a quiet release, but as time passed, critics and fans acclaimed the album as one of the best in history. Ranging from short 2-minute interludes, to 10-minute closers the album drew influences from classic and current bands and blended them into an amazing conceptual album about one of Cedric's fallen friends. Included in just about every top 50-album list of 2003 'Deloused in the Comatorium' certainly established the Mars Volta as a band to look out for.

During 2004 TMV spent months touring and enlarging the album that had made them famous. Just as they had turned the current underground scene upside down with the album, they turned the live show scene on its end with 2-hour performances and 30-minute songs. From these 'jam sessions' as they were referred too, TMV drew the music which would eventually evolve into the album 'Frances the Mute'. Incorporating the classic progressive feel of such bands as King Crimson and Pink Floyd, 'Frances the Mute' is a seamless 77-minute epic about the discovery of a man's roots. With only 5 tracks the album has been referred to as 'pretentious', 'self indulged' and 'too long' these are some of the attributes, which make it a classic album. Once again we get appearances by Flea and various other acclaimed musical artists, but without Rick Rubin’s production skills we are left with Omar the band’s guitarist to be the man behind the board for 'Frances the Mute'. He does not disappoint.


Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus


Beginning with a 45 second acoustic intro, FTM establishes itself off the bat as something different than 'Deloused in the Comatorium'. The feel is much more personal and the lyrical style Cedric is known for is played down as he is actually using normal words this time around. After the brief intro the song breaks into a funky Latin beat with Cedric wailing in Spanish, for about 20 seconds and then we get what everyone was already waiting for, some great shredding from Omar. Bringing back the beat after the short solo, Cedric starts to sing in English. After a verse we go into the chorus, which includes the great lines 'All night long I'll hunt for you, Let me show you what I mean'. Breaking back into the verse we are treated to some great one-liners vocally such as 'Umbilical Syllables'. After another set of verses we go back to the chorus with an added section, and then a breakdown into a different type of Latin beat that still is similar to the one in the previous two verses. And again we break into a new chorus section with the line 'Who do you trust?'

The song continues on until we hit about 3:30 where we go into a crazy off key section that brings the song into a slower beat. Juan throws on some crazy effects into the bass groove, and Cedric wails over a pulsing beat until, the song breakdown with the help of effects at 4:10. For 2 minutes we get some build-up guitar-work from Omar with some very slow and simple bass and drum work. Then at 7:00 the song breaks into a great vocal performance by Cedric with an uprising major scale based groove behind him. ‘I count the days to find/That was left behind. Only these names I/ clutch, Will lead me to my home/Somehow this river marks, A wrinkle hand in mine/ And everyday that parts / The water into two' During this build up the sounds of horns are strings are slowly building up. As the lyrics drop off, Cedric starts to wail out 'Ooo Yeah' as the strings and horns build up behind him. As the orchestra builds up Jon and Omar come in just ripping on their guitar and drums respectively creating a great build-up until finally it suddenly breaks back into the chorus of 'Who do you trust/Will they feed us the womb?' After the final run through of the chorus, the song begins to fade out with a very large sounding riff and more wailing on Cedric's.

As the instruments finally begin to disappear the song transcends into the sound of wind rushed cars and high-pitched voices. Like 'Deloused' the ambient section is again a build up to the next song, but unlike 'Deloused' this section actually has a manipulated beat behind it making it almost sound like music. Finally the beat fades out and we are left with the passing sound of cars and the eagerness too hear the follow up track.

The Widow


The official single of 'Frances the Mute' begins right away with a simple acoustic riff from Omar and a truly emotional and tender vocal section by Cedric. The sound of cars passing is still heard in the distance but once the song twiddles along for 30 seconds the full band comes in, in a truly power-ballad moment. The chorus clearly shows how improved Cedric is vocally in comparsion to 'Deloused'. After the chorus the simple acoustic riff is brought back but with Juan behind it on a fretless bass. Another repeat of the chorus and then we break into a trumpet solo by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that is a prelude to a great shred-fest from Omar who really shows his chops in this song. As Cedric returns back to the chorus, the full band comes in once again and fades out in one last big hit.

The sounds of chimes are heard as Cedric's voice under goes an effect to make it slow and delayed, and then another ambient section is triggered. This one features the sounds of a factory and the sounds of highly distorted piano chords. Stretching on for 2 minutes, the ambient section does not feel as appropriate as it did in Cygnus but it still has the right affect of building up to the next song.

L' Via L' Viaquez


Quiet skipping of a record is heard for 40 seconds until John Frusicante comes in with a huge rock riff. Then we break into some classic sounding heavy metal with Spanish lyrics coming from Cedric. While some of Cedric's slurs and such are not perfect, he still uses Spanish pretty greatly throughout the song. The pretty normal sounding song sticks the same until about 2:40 when it breaks into a small piano beat that has an extremely Latin feel to it. Cedric starts to sing in English in this section sprouting off phrases like 'With every clamor that they mine' and 'I will never forget who I'm looking for' After the short interlude we come back to some heavy soloing on John's behalf that brings the song back to the Latin rock feel. There are no changes in this section from the previous except for the solo that started it off and so at around 4:53 it breaks back into the piano Latin section. Cedric's lyrics have changed here but they are still in English, and eventually he reprises the 'I will never forget who I'm looking for' section.

After a minute of piano play we go to another solo who is by Omar this time I believe, and instead of returning back to the similar rock beat of the past two sections we are given a rousing drum beat and some very deep singing from Cedric in Spanish. Soon after the Spanish is complete Cedric breaks into English saying, 'When all the worms come/Crawling out of your head, Telling you/ Don't be afraid' The drumbeat eventually breaks into a short solo and then a gong sounds off the return to the piano section. The reprise of the piano sections is different than the previous two though as it has the sampling of people talking behind it. Although it has this new effect the same chorus is returned but towards the end the vocals of Cedric start to be drowned with effects.

Following Cedric's vocal arrangement the famous pianist Larry Harlow plays a piano solo, with the help of Omar providing some back up soloing in response to the keys. This goes on for until 11:03 when the song drowns out and we hear a highly distorted Cedric spouting out the chorus of 'And with everybody that I find/And with every clamor that they mine, I won't forget who I'm looking for/ Oh mother help me I'm looking for'. After the ending of the small vocal solo, a quiet squeaking is heard that takes us into the next track.

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore

The squeaking that we heard end 'L' Via L' Viaquez' goes on for a minute until the sound of airy guitar, Cedric quietly moaning, a low voice moaning and an overall very eerie setting introduce the first 3 minutes of this song. This is probably my favorite ambient section of the album because it really adds to the atmosphere of 'Miranda' and actually sounds like music incomparsion to the sounds that the other ambient sections are really composed of. While the ambient section is still quietly passing, the sounds of guitar are eventually heard around 4:00. And at 4:20 we are exposed to the song with the blast of horns over the quiet drifting of Cedric's vocals. The trumpets build with some minor playing by Jon and then Cedric comes in with the same eerie voice he was using in the beginning of the song. Speaking of 'eating glass' and 'ice picks' Cedric sings over the drifting sound of Omar's guitar, through out the first moments of the song.

The chorus with the line 'Everyone turned away/Used to the noose they obey' is perhaps the best lyric in the entire album, but it ends very quickly and Cedric returns to talk about 'Children grinding their jaws' The difference in the chorus this time is the inclusion of bass along with Omar's guitar. As the second chorus ends, Jon comes in with a simple beat as the tension is tweaked with, with the sound of trumpets. At 8:23 the pounding sound of trumpets breaks into a full band chorus, that throws of the slow feel the rest of the song had. As the final chorus reprise ends at 9:00 the distorted sound of Omar’s guitar breaks into a string section, and a horn section that seclude the feeling of depression 'Miranda' created. For 3 minutes a trumpet solos until at 12:00 the quiet sounds of a 'Cassandra Gemini' can be heard.

Miranda is my favorite song on the album, and is completely different from anything the Mars Volta has put out since Tremulant. It is truly an incredible experience and probably one of the most depressing songs I’ve ever heard.

Cassandra Gemini


And so the album concludes with a 30-minute song spread out through 7 different tracks. Every bit of the first 5 minutes of Cassandra is intense, starting off with 'I think I’ve become like one of the others' and the backing sound of horns, we are then blasted into Omar soloing like mad. After three repetitions, the song breaks into a spoken word section by a heavily distorted Cedric. Horns and guitar are building up the rest of the song through out the spoken word sections, and once it ends we get a very emotional performance from Cedric as he calls out the lines 'I've sworn to kill every last one'. After going through this section the main chorus of this song breaks into full stride. Taking note from King Crimson, The Mars Volta has an epic guitar riff over an orchestrated string and horn section. With Juan, Jon, and Ikey providing the rhythm, the chorus of this song rivals the ending moments of 'Take The Veil' from 'Deloused'. The lines 'Now there's no light, in the darkest/Of your furthest reaches' even call back the feelings of isolation, and separation that have been present through-out the entire album and it really caps the feelings one has when listening to Frances the Mute. After the first time of this chorus, we break back into the previous noodling of guitar and horn build up with Cedric spurting various phrases in his traditional falsetto. As Cedric calls out 'Panic in the shakes of the wounded', the saxophone returns and we are once again in for the rush of the chorus.

After the second chorus, the music is totally switched up with a powerful guitar, bass, and drum build up, and Cedric almost changing to his old At the Drive-in voice while he screams, 'Shock lest shackles free you'. At 4:48 we break into the horn part of the previous part with some heavy soloing by Omar and Cedric once again calling out to the audience. As this section ends, it seems like an end is near, as the entire orchestra and band are building up into something massive, but instead we heard Juan's bass cut through the noise and switch the beat of the song into something a bit slower but no less powerful. 'And now when the craving calls/ I'll scratch my itchy teeth' Cedric calls, as we hear the distant sounds of Ikey soloing on his piano. Breaking into some of Omar’s most talented noodling on the album at 7:00 the song begins to build up. The horns are pounding away in the background, Cedric is calling out to the characters he has established throughout the album, and Jon and Juan are pounding away. The feeling of the build up is tense, yet powerful. Finally Ikey breaks through the noise and slows it down again with a short key solo. Cedric is the instrument that brings the song back into its powerful self. In reaction Omar begins another solo as Juan just walks along on his bass.

At nearly 10 minutes, 'Cassandra' for the first time begins to slowly break into an ambient section, that doesn't have a sense of power in it. Still not wanting to let go, Omar brings in a solo to try and resurrect the beast that Cassandra once was. But Cedric's whispers of 'Twenty five snakes pour out your eyes' bring the song into a quiet, and dark place. The whispers go on for a brief time, until Omar finally blasts out some heavy riffing to pull the song back into a heavy statement. Cedric starts screaming along with the backing of Omar and the Orchestra and you can feel that the pressure is building up for something intense. At 14 minutes into the song, Omar finally breaks away from the rest of the sound in the song and begins to solo, with the help of the horns and strings. As the horns and strings melt away, Omar still solos over a fleeting bass riff and some quiet humming by Cedric, until he starts playing a repetitive guitar part that the orchestra follows briefly. This repetitive piece goes on for a minute until the entire power of the piece starts to break down, all of the instruments start spacing off into respective pieces, with even Cedric not really following the rest of the band. The song begins to follow apart, into a quiet guitar riff and whispering on Cedric's part. The ambient sounds found in Cicatriz from 'Deloused' begin to come in, but Omar silently keeps the song alive with some spastic harmonics. Juan and Jon also join in this small quiet segment. As Omar’s guitar drips out various riffs, the song starts to pick up power.

At 19:00 the band breaks into all insanity, half going left, half going right. The only thing keeping the music together is the calling of Cedric 'Not forever more'. Ikey brings the feeling down with some key work and the quiet section of harmonics, makes a reprise. Cedric once again is whispering but this time he speaks of 'Peeling back all of his skin'. The whispering calls forward an intense guitar blast and then it drops back into the quiet section. Almost as if the two ways the song could go are battling. One side, the quiet wanting to make the song become an ambient paradise, while the other wanting it to be a full on mind-*** of a rock. This battle goes on for around a minute until finally the song falls into a long quiet section that lasts for 5 minutes, stretching from 21:00 to 27:00 when the song is brought back through the unusual source of a saxophone solo.

Reminiscent of Pink Floyd, the wild saxophone's noise brings a calling that is similar to that of the one at the end of Miranda. The bass and drums are really the driving force of this build up, with the Omar sitting back and just following them. Until Cedric starts to scream out 'Heavens just a scab away' and 'Let them see it has begun/The others I've become' With the utter of the final words, the soloing of Omar, the build up of horns and strings, the pounding of the rhythm section, everything goes quiet and strings play a simple line. And then all hell breaks loose with the final reprise of the chorus. Cedric yells out 'You ain't got nothing/Your life was just a lie' as the chorus orchestrates the final moments of Cassandra and in a brief moment, everything ends. The silence is short lived though as the beginning acoustic fill of 'Frances the Mute' ends the album on a seldom note.

Cassandra is an epic and perfect concluder to the album. This song is an amazing feat, a 30-minute song that is actually for the most part good, throughout. If they had just released this song split up as the album, I'm sure I would've loved it just as much.
(Cassandra is broken into 7 different movements on the actual release of the album, but it was intended to be one full song)


All in all, Frances the Mute is perhaps the most pretentious, piece of work the boys from El Paso have put out since they formed At the Drive-in in the early 90s. While they are some cases of there being too much ambient sound and too much of a change in the sound from 'Deloused' to Frances, this album is an amazing evolution and an amazing experience. Where as 'Deloused' was the 'Dark Side of the Moon', 'Frances' in my opinion will be the 'Wish You Were Here' of The Mars Volta's career. An amazing, powerful, album that will go mostly unnoticed by the masses. If it is for the reason of being pretentious, I’d just like you to think about all of the famous bands we recall nowadays and how they must have seemed in their various past scenes. All musical geniuses have been pretentious in someway or another, and in most cases the chance of an artist to take a risk and make something extremely different has always turned out to be for the better. 'Frances the Mute' is a experience rather than just music, like all music that has and will withstand the test of time.

5/5




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Comments:Add a Comment 
keep on phishin'
February 13th 2005



71 Comments


Great Review

I can't wait to hear this.

Scott Herren
February 13th 2005



192 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This doesn't come out for several weeks, but from what I have heard, it isn't a 5/5. Pretty good review though.

pixiesfanyo
February 13th 2005



1223 Comments


It came out in Japan last Tuesday acutally.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
February 13th 2005



2125 Comments


Good review. I haven't heard this, but I'm willing to bet it won't be 5/5

mx
Moderator
February 13th 2005



733 Comments


This is a good indepth review, but do you really think that "Deloused in the Comatorium" was one of the best in history? And do you really think Progressive was dead before this?

I like the detail, but the enthusiasm shines through perhaps a bit too much

el doctor
February 14th 2005



83 Comments


I agree with mx on this one. The detail is great, but the enthusiasm is a bit strong. Plus, never say prog is extinct. :p

I haven't given this one enough listens to give a real good opinion. I'll wait for the album to come out for that. But from what I've heard, I'm fairly mixed. There's certain musical sections that pass Deloused, but overall, I think it falls behind.

DFelon204409
Emeritus
February 15th 2005



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ill. I'm expecting the fully mixed unleaked version to be ridiculous.

YDload
February 16th 2005



1207 Comments


Sounds like a winner. I enjoy the self-indulgent works of this band, so even though many will be turned off by their prog-rock wankery, I'm sure it will suit me just fine.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
February 16th 2005



2125 Comments


That tracklist is confusing.

pixiesfanyo
February 16th 2005



1223 Comments


It's exactly like GYBE! The songs have movements.

Happymeal
February 16th 2005



330 Comments


I just hope that this'll be as cheap as Deloused

Mr Benners
February 18th 2005



20 Comments


It's out here (UK) on monday and HMV have an ad in Kerrang saying theyre selling it for 9.99

If this isnt as good as "De-loused" I will cry.
But not in an emo way :P

syous
February 19th 2005



5 Comments


I've been a huge fan omar's guitar work which started w/ ATDI, and then transcended into the mars volta. even though the mars volta resents being called prog, they have turned me on to the prog style of music.
my impatience keeps on growing for frances.

pixiesfanyo
February 20th 2005



1223 Comments


neat. I think it's better than deloused.

Mr Benners
February 21st 2005



20 Comments


WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Went out and got it first thing this morning, listening to it now (I'm on "The Widow" right now"). I'll give my opinion on it when I get to the end, but so far I am VERY impressed :D

Mr Benners
February 22nd 2005



20 Comments


So I've listened to it three times now.
Is it better then De-Loused? I still dont know.
It's definitely as good, but I'm still unsure as to whether it is actually better. Hmmm. Ah well, time will tell.

Cedric Blixer Zavala
February 24th 2005



3 Comments


Cedric and Omar 4 eva!

Wannabebassplayer
February 24th 2005



7 Comments


deloused and frances the mute are completely different types of albums. They are both fucking amazing classics in their own right. I am loving Frances the mute at the moment. Its definately my Album of the moment!!

Med57
Moderator
February 24th 2005



1001 Comments


Hmm...I couldn't get into Deloused really, but TMV intrigue me. I'll probably end up getting this, just out of curiosity if for no other reason. Very good review as well.

YDload
February 24th 2005



1207 Comments


It's on pre-order from Amazon for only ten bucks! I might as well get it there and wait anxiously for Tuesday to roll around.



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