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.
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
, 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.
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
The long intros
The long conclusions
Out of tune guitar work
The end of Cassandra Gemini