Review Summary: Amputechture has the pure talent and energy of the previous 2 albums without the inconsistancy of DITC, and without the ambience of FTM. The album doesn't take as much of a risk as Frances did, but is much more accesible.
The Mars Volta... You're either enlightened or angered already. That's just the kind of group they are, the mere mention of there name inspires fanboys and haters alike. The Fanboys claim The Mars Volta is making inspired progressive rock that blazes a new path for music, that will be attempted, but never successfully cloned. They Claim that each album is a different story that takes the listener to a different time and place, and every song is an epic masterpiece. The haters are on the opposite side of the fence. To them, The Mars Volta is just a band that experiments for 70 minutes, that will not be recreated only because it's barely even music. These haters will say that The Mars Volta uses pointless ambience and long songs to trick the listener into thinking he/she is hearing something new and different, but in reality, it's the same nonsensical shrieking from Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the weird, uneeded effects, and Nonsensical Lyrics in both English and Spanish.
The truth is, both of these are Correct in parts. Yes, Many TMV songs are similar, but it definitely isn't "You've heard one, you've heard em all". And Yes, The Mars Volta did fall in love with pointless ambience that took a while to get used to, and Cedric often uses his Spanish incorrectly (Note that Asilos Magdelena
in properly spoken Spanish is Asilos Magdalenos). Some would knock The Mars Volta for their constant use of fairly long songs, Many people like this better. It's more about personal taste than anything. Mostly what the Fanboys see as good, the Haters see as unlistenable. The only true disagreement between the two is whether or not Cedric's voice is good or not. To my ears, Cedric has a beautiful voice. In these days of people sounding like people, Cedric has an unmistakable voice. When you hear a Mars Volta Song, You know it's The Mars Volta.
With Tool putting out an effort that was widely less favored than Frances The Mute, Cedric, Omar and the gang have the chance to be progressive rocks undisputed kings. And with the release of Amputechture
, They have most likely accomplished that feat. And to be a true Progressive band, you need three things. A Lead singer with 3 letter Initials, a wide and sometimes annoying fan base that hangs on the band's every action, and a very large vocabulary. If most of your song titles make the listener visit Wikipedia to find out what the hell the title of your song means, you are in great shape.
Amputechture is allegedly the first Mars Volta album without a strict plot, but The album does have 2 main themes: Religion, and Amputechture. When most bands take on religion, they either support it completely, or denounce it completely. The album does neither, it is mainly in limbo, and describes the fear associated with Religion rather than simply choosing a side. The sub plot is Amputechture, which is the amputation of architecture. In other words, Robbery of historic artifacts. And the album is a leap forward in the bands nature. Gone are the characters in which the entire album revolves around, So you can bid farewell to Cerpin Taxt, Frances, Miranda, L'Via, and Cassandra. Gone are the minutes of ambience, so wave goodbye to Chirping Birds, Cars Driving, Mothers Yelling, and Records Skipping. But not everything is new, there are some familiar tactics in Amputechture. Remember the pointless, yet still cool special Effects on Cedric's voice. That has returned, that's back On most of the songs. The long songs are back, as are the Spanish songs. And of course, the odd, seemingly (But most likely not) nonsensical random words belted out By Cedric. Also back is the great music, more horns, more snazzy drumming, and more excellent guitar work from Omar.
The album starts out with the dark and lonely Vicarious Atonement
. Which is dominated by guitar work so good, I sometimes forget there are words in it. Which is probably the only song on the album where Cedric isn't front and center. The album's first single is Viscera Eyes
; the album's spanglish song. While it is not as radio friendly as, say Vermicide
, it is still a very great song. The distortion of the guitar and vocals stand out the most to me. The song is all rock until about 6 minutes in where it changes pace to a jazzy riff, all out drumming, and a wild electric guitar that has Frusciante written all over it. that is really one of the best moments on the album. Cedric breaks into a unique and soulful verse:
Wait! I've seen the ark shake from your pneumonic tongue
But the Braille that you weave of itself it shall read aloud
Yes it will
I said, she's falling, she's still falling
But no one wants to come
She's crawling, she's still crawling
On your burial ground
Said, she's falling, she's still falling
But no one wants to come
I said, she's crawling, she's still crawling
On your burial
The song breaks down until only the jazzy riff is left. But who would've imagined that The Mars Volta, who are known for their signature electric sound make the most noise with an accoustic ballad. Asilos Magdelena
does not have any real percussion, but it doesn't need it at all. The Guitar, and Vocals are the only thing that matter in this song, and they matter a lot. Though I can't speak a whole lot of Spanish, Cedric's singing is really powerful, and matches with the flamingo guitar perfectly. But I must admit, the song didn't become tied for my favorite off of the album until I read the translation of the lyrics:
And now that you fell off this world, I carry a knife, My god, For you. How many times you bit me. And how many times I left. And I am no longer in love With your lies.
In hell I sleep, because hell is the only truth
As soon as the effects come in and Cedric's voice becomes distorted, It becomes apparent that these guys really know how to make beautiful music, I could've had no knowledge of The Mars Volta and still fallen in love with this song. And I say tied for the best song because of Tertagrammaton
, the song that dwarfs any other Epic in recent memory. Clocking in at almost 17 minutes, and every second of it is pure rock. The song goes through so many moods. From Melancholy, to Confrontational, to downright odd. And while I may consider this the (co-)best song on the album, it does prove a knock on the Mars Volta to be true. Though I'd like to think all TMV lyrics have some kind of a meaning, I can't even begin to comprehend the following line:
The kiosk in my temporal lobe Is shaped like Rosalyn Carter.
She says my map is home again, But torn face down
Umm, first of all, why is there a Kiosk in Cedric's brain? second, why is it shaped like a former First Lady? Third, since when do Kiosks talk? And I thought a Mink Handjob in Sarcophagus Heels was odd... But, If the rest of the group wasn't barraging me with pure, unadulterated progressive rock instrumentation, I'd be very confused. But Cedric redeems himself with great lyrics throughout the rest of the song. Another track over 10 Minutes, Day of the Baphomets
is another less than traditional track. With great bass and a horn section, and another different style of singing from Cedric, The song features drumming that sounds as if someone is banging on a junkyard drum set. For a 10+ minute song, it could go a lot further than it does. And though this album doesn't really have a skippable track, I would pin this song with being the least amazing on the album. Meccamputechture
is pretty much the song that sums up the entire album. From the zany opening to the song, to the Sax at the end, the song is the best from an instrumental standpoint. Not to mention, Cedric actually has some great lyrics on the song. El Ciervo Vulnerado
is the album's closer, is a 9 minute jam session with gloomy effects, an irresistible sax throughout, and an extremely skilled guitar solo, like Asilos Magdalena
, the song has no real percussion, but doesn't really need it. The song is slow paced but by no means is it draggy. There are enough things to keep the listener interested, and the album closes with "Blessed be..." reversed.
The greatest thing about this album is that The Mars Volta knows the band they are. They know they put out Frances The Mute, which is regarded by many as a classic. And they know they will never make another Frances The Mute, so they didn't even try to. They just did what they do best. And they accomplished that. All that matters now is the listener's taste. All that matters is whether or not Cedric has a great voice, or just shrieks. Whether the lyrics are mysterious, or just random words jotted after a dictionary reading under the influence. It's as simple as this. This album will NOT
win over people who don't like The Mars Volta. If you liked At the Drive-In
It will NOT
be a guarantee that you'll love this album. It's all a matter of what you like in your music, but chances are, if you don't have an opinion on The Mars Volta, this album will definitely give you one.
The Mars Volta are in their prime right now. Every instrument is being played with extreme skill
Diverse enough to stay in your CD Player for a long time
No more inconsistency or ambience
If you are looking for simple and/or Meaningful lyrics, this is not the album for you
If you are looking for songs under 10 minutes, try something else.
Takes a few spins to fully grow on you.