The Mars Volta
Frances the Mute


5.0
classic

Review

by John weathered old reviewer Hanson STAFF
August 4th, 2006 | 292 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


There are some albums that change lives. On a purely personal level, Frances the Mute nearly accomplishes that with me. The Mars Volta had, of course, entranced me with the highly energetic De-Loused in the Comatorium, which in retrospect sounds just as close to their At the Drive-In days as it does this album. But all of that is relatively unimportant. What is important is what makes this album so brutally brilliant.

The album, both as a whole and broken into pieces, works flawlessly. Opting out of the sudden explosiveness of their previous ventures (for the most part), The Mars Volta instead practice sweeping epicness. Songs such as Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus are broad and multi-faceted songs; from a soft acoustic intro, we find a highly intense standard verse-chorus section, which ultimately and sublimely flows into a sweeping instrumental, only to be brought to a near operatic-section as vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala shows off just how much he improved on this album. The scenario with most of the other songs is extremely similar in structure, yet executed so differently, that it’s a wonder The Mars Volta didn’t just take each of these ideas and mold entire separate songs about them. However, that is probably what makes this album what it is.

The playing field musicianship-wise was also tremendously increased on this album. The previously mentioned Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus features one of the most intricate guitar lines I’ve ever heard, and instead of sticking to a solid rhythm, the drum and bass work are equally technical and impressive. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is quite possibly the most promising guitarist anywhere near famous enough to make a lasting impact on up-and-coming guitarists everywhere, and his work on here is indicative of such. While occasionally sloppy, you cannot deny the absolute insane quality of his work (which is only heightened when you realize he wrote most of...well, everything on the album). Jon Theodore is, in addition, one of the most talented musicians I’ve heard in quite a while, with his arguable tendency to overplay overshadowed by the fact that Goddamn, that boy can play.

Of course, Juan Alderete has been a solid bassist for years upon years, but he certainly made his mark here as well. Contributing solid basslines throughout the entirety of the album, its undoubtedly L’via L’Viaquez where he makes his strongest mark, giving a rather simplistic, yet altogether infectious piece of work that not only fits the song perfectly, but also gives an already entirely too danceable song even more danceability. Ikey Owens also contributes his part to the album, but its often (and unfortunately) overshadowed by the extreme technicality of the rest of the members. Opting out of trying to be some kind of keyboard virtuoso, Ikey has adopted the philosophy of “build, don’t break.” Every song has some sort of sweeping piano, organ, or synth that only builds the mood of any said song.

And the moods of any said song are often created and finished by Cedric, singer for TMV. Previously, he was an emotionally driven vocalist; he made you feel what he was trying to impart, but in all honesty, it was never that smooth of an intake. On Frances, however, Cedric has gone nearly balls to the walls, delivering countless memorable performances, such as the cry of “I count the days to find what was left behind...”, or the soft crooning of “And I’ll never...never sleep alone”, perhaps even the sudden crash of “Bring me to my knees!”. He goes through a range of vocal “effects” on this album, some self inflicted (hence the “‘s) and some digitally done. Regardless, he has attained the potential his voice once showed, but never followed through on, and thats a beautiful thing.

The albums concept, while surprisingly coherent and quite interesting, takes backseat to the fact that the album just flows so gosh-darn well, and for only having 5 true separate tracks, the variety on this album far surpasses that of Deloused’s. You have a salsa groove session on L’via L’viaquez, a 30 minute jazz-infused prog opus in Cassandra Gemini, replete with flute and sax solos. You have a short, yet hard hitting power ballad. An intense opening track that strangely concludes with the voices of children, and their mother yelling at them to come inside. Hell, you even have a song that doesnt get into full swing for five minutes. And that’s saying something, considering Cedric and Omar’s (the main songwriting duo for the album) past tendencies.

The album is, in a word to my psyche, astounding. It’s not for everyone, and its really not for anyone in particular; a fan of progressive music may hate this just as much as some punk kid with a NOFX shirt, or an electronica nut who debates on which Boards of Canada album really is the best. But, then again, the same holds true for the opposite. I’ve seen this album turn that same stereotypical punk kid, that same stereotypical electronica kid, and the tr00 kvlt fans of “prog” that like or love this album far outweigh those who detest it. Sure, ambience abounds. Then again, any media player will allow you to skip right past all that if you wish, and god bless if you do. Me? I’ll listen to the album all the way through, and enjoy every second of crickets chirping.



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user ratings (3033)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Hmmm, I typed this pretty quickly. I wanted my 50th review to be of this album, simple as that.

south_of_heaven 11
August 4th 2006


5438 Comments


Glad to see you reviewing again.
Good job. Surprisingly, I checked out their myspace awhile back. They're not as bad as I had thought, but still nothing I would like...their quite creative though...

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


17945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice work.

711
August 4th 2006


1341 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Happy half-century

Ive heard a few songs by the Mars Volta and really liked them. My birthday is coming up in a few days and with my birthday cash I will probably buy De-Loused in the Comatorium and This.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Save it for like....two or three weeks, and buy this and Amputechture. Just do it.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

^^ He lies, its the worst. It's a great album, but pales in comparison to either.
*evil glare*

Foreskin Fondler
August 4th 2006


279 Comments


Is the album anything like the first two singles, because I thought those songs were vomit-inducing bad

Full Collapse299
August 4th 2006


507 Comments


Happy 50th. Here's to 50 more. I've been meaning to give this a listen. I like the Widow but I don't think it can be compared to the rest.This Message Edited On 08.04.06

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

The first two singles are two of 5 distinct sounds on the album. Each song is rather...well, entirely different thant the other to be plain. Yet it all works. Funny, isn't it.
The Widow is fantastic and underrated in a general sense, but I do enjoy every other song on the album more.

Two-Headed Boy
August 4th 2006


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Is the album anything like the first two singles, because I thought those songs were vomit-inducing bad

You won't like this album then.
Nice review, happy 50th, good album, good band etc.

francesfarmer
August 4th 2006


1477 Comments


Its growing on me, I'll say that. Cassandra Gemini is sickly awesome. I can't believe I overlooked this earlier...I'm such a sad person.

This is also an example of what a model review should be, fabulous work.

Syncratic
August 4th 2006


756 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Brilliant review!

"Freshly Baked"
August 4th 2006


583 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You kick ass.

This owns the other 2 review for the simple fact that you made the exact same points I would've made.

You quoted all of my favorite lines from the album, and you're right. The ambiance takes a bit to "get" but it's neccessary (sp?)

This album really changed my life.... Well.... It's changed the way I listen to music.... and music is pretty much my liffe so, yeah. It changed my life.

I'm proud to be a TMV fanboy.

Risiculous job on the review. Short, but very descriptive.

Chuck Mangione > Iluvatar > JesusThis Message Edited On 08.05.06

Cygnus Inter Anates
August 4th 2006


721 Comments


I've always wanted to eat glass with you again.

Killtacular
August 4th 2006


1314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You're my hero.

This will be looked back on in 30 years like the genius of Yes and King Crimson are now.

"Jesus, that was a classic album. And I own an original copy. Bought it in '05."

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

You know eliminator, I always think that avatar is a panda. Its rather humorous.
And thanks for the rather large amount of praise. I'm a hero *swoon*

Against Miik!
August 5th 2006


215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My least favorite Volta album i'd say, but that doesn't mean I don't still love it. I like all the albums, I just like this one the least.

So that being said, I don't think its deserves a 5. Maybe a 5 for Deloused and 3.5-4s for This and Amputechture.

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
August 5th 2006


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

In the wake of Amputechture, I just don't see how De-Loused will continue to be peoples favorite TMV album. Then again, it is far more reminiscent of ATD-I than either of the other two, so meh.
I mean Tremulant owns all the other TMV albums anyways /tr00 kvlt tmv opinyon

Zebra
Moderator
August 5th 2006


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

This album is a snoozefest, I can't beleive that so many people regard it as a "classic."
Like you said in the review this album isn't for everyone and I just suppose that it's not for me.

"Freshly Baked"
August 5th 2006


583 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

How dare you have a different opinion than me >:|

MEh. You either love TMV or you really hate them.




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