Review Summary: The Mars Volta are so much up their own arses, it’s going to take the gravitational pull of a large planet to pull them back out again.
Leftfield ambition can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Shortly after the release of the acclaimed “Relationship Of Command” in 2000, post hardcore band At The Drive In lost two members. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez and singer Cedric Bixler cited their desire to record a less structured and more experimental type of sound, something akin to Pink Floyds’ debut “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn”. They formed The Mars Volta in 2001 and released their first single “Tremulant” the following year, which gave a taste of their forthcoming style. Finally the debut arrived in 2003, brought about a revival in Progressive Rock, the long musical passages, the abstract lyrics and the grand experiment in Rock music as an atmospheric soundscape, pushing boundaries of both song structure and traditional rhythm. During interviews the band told the story behind the lyrical basis of the album. It’s the tale of Cerpin Taxt who wakes from a coma, only to find that he was happier in his comatose state, and the story is directly related to the life of their drug addled band friend and professional artist Julio Venegas, a man whose huge drug addiction brought about a near death coma. He awoke delirious, his brain pickled, and would eventually commit suicide by jumping from a bridge and into the oncoming traffic on the I-10 near El Paso, Texas.
On a positive note, “De-Loused In The Comatorium” achieves its target. At over an hour it delivers 10 songs of hard Progressive music, unstructured by the traditional verse/chorus, the only constraints being the long meandering quiet phases interrupted by explosive moments to identify the listener with the attempt at the atmospheric concept of the recording. It wavers from unadulterated passionate performance to tenderly articulated moments in the space of seconds, and one thing for sure, the listener sure doesn’t know what’s coming next. And yet throughout the whole experience one has the undeniable notion that this album is a sprawling mess, lacking vital ingredients like memorable musical passages, clumsily interspersed with clunky rhythms, and lyrics that are frankly so ambiguous they are truly laughable. In fact the whole album smells of artistic pomposity on THE grandest scale. Supporters of The Mars Volta would tell me that the band are pushing the boundaries of their art, denying themselves of any draw to commercial Rock mythology and independently recording songs without any preconception that they are playing to an audience, but to their own satisfaction. This reviewer would retort by saying that if they were looking to do that and remain thoroughly left field then they wouldn’t have chosen the likes of Rick Rubin, John Frusciante and Flea to play a part in making the album. To remain steadfastly real to their artistic intentions, surely they should have chosen Guitarists from South America or Africa or anywhere ? No, this album is rooted in selling large numbers, whatever the quality. I listened to the album 6 times on the trot to try to make some sense of it all, and possibly because I haven’t done large amounts of drugs, I failed to understand lyrics like “Are you just growing old, trackmarked amoeba lands craft, cartwheel of scratches, dress the tapeworm as pets” or “Exoskeletal junction at the railroad delayed” or “Nobody is heard , rowing sheep smiles for the dead”. Bring back Gong, Fugazi, Faust or Can because after all these years and this album, everything is forgiven.
The Mars Volta are so much up their own arses, it’s going to take the gravitational pull of a large planet to pull them back out again.
I can't see how The mars volta can be commercial... To accuse them for their pomposity is accepted,but as long as the band has chosen this road it is better to judge them for how they followed it.And this album as you also say achieves its target.I guess its a love-or-hate band.Personally I prefer Frances the Mute.
left field then they wouldn’t have chosen the likes of Rick Rubin, John Frusciante and Flea to play a part in making the album
From what I've read the band didn't choose Rick Rubin, the record label set them up with him. In fact I believe I read that Omar absolutely hated working with him. Besides, Rubin doesn't produce albums, he's just a band mediator most of the time.
And about Frusciante and Flea, there's a thing called friends, and when you have friends you like to involve them with parts of your life that they would be interested in.
I would bash you pretty hard for such a shitty review, but the last line of the second paragraph saved you.
It's a decently written review but the opinion is pretty fucked. I agree the band seems full of themselves sometimes but this album rules. Still some pretty creative minds behind the music. The lyrics are supposed to be abstract btw, it's kind of left up to the listener to create the meaning or relate them to the concepts behind the albums.
You've gotta remember, its a concept album. The character is experiencing PSYCHOSIS. I think the point of the lyrics is to throw out any reference points from which to glean understanding, and Omar does so by making disjointed and almost cacophonous phrases. The imagery is meant to be felt viscerally, not analyzed in order to find relevance. For instance, I may not understand shit he says, but hell if I don't think the words sound cool when grouped together. Insanity is an avenue into the unknown, mysterious and disturbing, and the lyrics cater to that aesthetic. Also: shaky points, weak attempt at being Douglas Adams in your summary, and only one sentence actually conveyed your opinion of the MUSIC. Woulda respected a 2 if you backed it up. Neg'd with a cape on it.