The Mars Volta
Frances the Mute


2.5
average

Review

by Shiver44 USER (1 Reviews)
January 28th, 2009 | 46 replies | 3,553 views


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist

Review Summary: TMV falls into the prog-rock trap of making an album that is too ambitious, grand, and yes too pretentious for their own good. There are good moments to be had here, but the album just has no sense of coordination.

3 of 6 thought this review was well written

I owe The Mars Volta a lot. In 2003 I listened almost exclusively to post-hardcore music, then I bought De-Loused in the Comatorium and it blew me away. I had never heard anything like it; it was so experimental, adventurous and bold. I still consider it a classic album. So I was anticipating the new album eagerly. Then I heard the single: The Widow. It had a dark vibe and one creepy music video, I liked it, but that song did not prepare me for what the rest of the album was like.

The first thing that I noticed, and the first thing that annoyed me was the 'Spanglish' vocals employed on most of the album. I really do not understand why they were used here, especially mixing the English and the Spanish together creating an incoherent ramble. It seemed like a gimmick to me. Not a deal-breaker, but a minor annoyance.

Speaking of 'deal-breakers' that would be the song length. Now I have no problem with long songs: Tool, Opeth, etc. If you compose a long song you had better make every last minute interesting. The Mars Volta did that on Deloused in the Comatorium, where the songs were generally strong all the way to the end. That is not the case on this album. The best song on this album in my estimation is Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore, yet there is a pointless five minutes of wasted space before it got to the point. This happens all of the time: at the end of The Widow, at the end of Cygnus.... Vismund Cygnus, the beginning and the end of L'Via L'Viaquez. Literal minutes go by without any payoff. Why are they wasting my time? Did they think it was funny? I'm not really sure. I have even mentioned the thirty minute song, yes THIRTY! They had so much packed onto this CD that they had to leave off the title track, Frances The Mute a you-guessed-it fourteen minute song. They probably could have fit it in if they were have trimmed the fat. It is actually a really good song!

This isn't a bad album to be sure. There a moments of pure prog/jazz bliss. Jon Theodore and Juan Alderte form a rock solid rhythm section, providing a mixture of 70s rock, Latin American, and jazz beats. They pull all of them off really well and provide a versatile cornerstone to the band's sound. Cedric's vocals are great; he was born to sing in this genre. Can he be over the top? Sure, but its prog-rock. His wailing fits the music perfectly. I loved his performance on Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. The only problem I had with the sound is Omar Rodriquez's production. His lack of knowledge about music theory (admitted rather candidly by him) holds them back. Most bands in this genre are very fluent in music theory, but in this case it seems like the band is just jamming with no real understanding of what's going on. It is mostly very good stuff, but every once in a while there is a cringe worthy out of key note that ruins the sound.

There are good moments to be had here for sure, but to illustrate the album is like the Caribbean Sea; a lot of pretty tropical islands with white sand beaches, but a lot of empty water too. Unfortunately for The Mars Volta they would only continue down this path of overtly pretentious prog-rock with Amputechure and Bedlam in the Goliath. Promises of an acoustic album in the future offer a glimmer of hope though.

Best moments:

The opening guitar lick in L'Via L'Viaquez
".. and when Miranda sang, everyone turned away, used to the noose, they obey" conclusion to Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore
The acoustic guitar line in The Widow
Seven minutes into Cygnus.

Worst moments:

The long intros
The long conclusions
Spanglish gibberish
Out of tune guitar work
The end of Cassandra Gemini


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Comments:Add a Comment 
Shiver44
January 28th 2009



20 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Before I get mobbed by the TMV fans, I consider myself one. I love De-Loused, liked Bedlam, have a love/hate with this album and I don't like Amputechture.

willfellmarsy
January 28th 2009



3844 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

the intro to miranda is perfect...its purpose is to set mood, which it does amazingly
the "spanglish" brings an element of mystery...since i don't listen to spanish singers, it brings a little extra appeal, and the switches back and forth (especially in l'via) are excellent

ambience is a technique, and it's fine to not think it's effective but to say it's a waste of time seems like you never gave it a chanceThis Message Edited On 01.28.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2009



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i used to not like miranda's intro but now i don't not like it anymore i listen to it every time

times change huh

bastard
January 28th 2009



3435 Comments


this is sort of boring at times, but i love the atmosphere no matter.

timbo8
January 28th 2009



618 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Agreed! This has some great parts, but the loose and lengthy experimentation and lack of unity in the name of atmosphere does very little for me. Deloused is much better than this.

fromrows
January 28th 2009



113 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I feel the same as Shiver44. This album is really a hit or miss depending on your expectations going into the album, although I think Bedlam is the best thing they have done so far!

DoctorNurse
January 28th 2009



475 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree about Miranda, awesome song but the opening 5 minutes is pretentious noise-twaddle.

botb
January 28th 2009



9284 Comments


2.5 for this? naaaaahhhh no way.

Digging: Cult Leader - Nothing For Us Here

willfellmarsy
January 28th 2009



3844 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

um...less than 3.5=gai ittThis Message Edited On 01.28.09

IAmInsect
January 28th 2009



3800 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

NEG

Mendigo
January 28th 2009



2299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Most bands in this genre are very fluent in music theory, but in this case it seems like the band is just jamming with no real understanding of what's going on

this is it. this is exactly what I think about the band and have never been really able to express in one sentence.
this review pretty much expresses my feelings about the album and the band, I don't think they're crap or anything but I can listen to them only once in a while.
they were great as a post-hardcore band and De-Loused is a great album as well (though the thing I love the most about it might be the awesome production), but here (and on all their other albums) they're trying too hard to create something unique and toying with styles and ideas they themselves seem to not really understand.

oh, and btw once again: I recommend Mezquita's "Recuerdos de mi Tierra" to every Mars Volta fan, just to make you realise that what they're trying to do is actually not that new ;)This Message Edited On 01.28.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2009



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

hey cedric and omar did you hear that

you don't understand your own music

also what is wrong with the end of cassandra gemini

Acre
January 28th 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Several years ago, I was in the same damn boat as this guy. Some of the moments of aimlessness still bug the crap out of me, but those amazing moments are so amazing that it counteracts any ambient pretentiousness.

That being said, Amputechture is still a terrible album. (Bedlam slightly less so).

BTW, the end of Cassandra is fucking amazing. The middle is where it sorta drops off (basically from Part IV to halfway through Part VI)This Message Edited On 01.28.09

bastard
January 28th 2009



3435 Comments


I'd say:

Deloused >>>>>>>>>>> Frances = Bedlam >>>>>>>>>>>>> Amputechture

joshuatree
Emeritus
January 28th 2009



3743 Comments


but i love the atmosphere no matter.

i was unaware there was an atmosphere

Spamue1G
January 28th 2009



1292 Comments


Not a bad review. Could expand upon a few points a bit more, and it does seem like you haven't given the album much of a chance, but there's enough detail there to give a basic idea of the album. I'll pos.
I don't know where to put this or De-loused atm, they're both fantastic, nothing below 4.5, but I don't know which I like more, and I don't know whether I could consider them classics... Oh well, gives me all the more chance to listen to them

Acre
January 28th 2009



847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Deloused = Frances > Bedlam > AmpThis Message Edited On 01.28.09

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 28th 2009



17913 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

you used the wrong > there

willfellmarsy
January 28th 2009



3844 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

frances>amp>de-loused=bedlam

botb
January 28th 2009



9284 Comments


deloused >bed>frances>amp tbh



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