Review Summary: Getting under the skin of The Mars Volta
This is a review of The Mars Volta’s debut album, De-Loused in the Comatorium
. As countless other reviews will tell you, this album is sporadic, streamlined, progressive, inventive, loud, quiet, self-indulgent, crowd-pleasing, and diversely influenced. Its genius and coherence have been called into question almost as much as they have been praised. This is all you will hear in such clear terms.
Jorge Luis Borges’ short fictional story, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
tells of a man who attempts reinvent himself as Miguel de Cervantes (the original author of the Quixote) in order to recreate Don Quixote
word for word, not as a copy, but as an independently (or rather identically) inspired invention. Now, Don Quixote
is an incredibly extensive and complex work, so it is appropriately hard to accept Borges’ account as plausible – however, there is a much higher probability of being able to recreate a review already in existence (of which there are very many) for De-Loused
word for word without being particularly familiar with it, deliberately paraphrasing it or copying it out. Therefore, I shall abandon the beaten track in search of a fresher and, ultimately, more enlightening approach than that of a directly informative review – this is a review of The Mars Volta, in the style of The Mars Volta. Everything I do here with writing corresponds to something they have done, or might do, musically. It has been carefully composed and contemplated.
Without further ado:
The Plot Paragraph
Cerpin Taxt is a man with a plan, and his plan is death. He overdoses on suicide, enters a coma, trips fitness balls, wakes up and dies. This is never explained or detailed in a coherent manner, and to be honest, understanding it is a waste of time because it adds very little to the album, the story isn’t that good, and it’s outrageously complicated in terms of minor details, so one could devote days to studying it (some have – there’s an e-book on it available online). Due to this disappointment, a supplementary story will now be provided to give this paragraph a more upbeat tone:
There is a hedgehog called Fuzzywuzzy. Fuzzywuzzy is bored of being a hedgehog and wants to learn to fly. Due to a cruel twist of fate, this does not happen. To make up for this failure, he builds a playground. Lots of little hedgehogs come to the playground and have fun. There is an unexpected break of five years. Fuzzywuzzy is now dead. There is another hedgehog called Jemima. She becomes president. The End.
Narrative is arbitrary and meaningless.
The Channing Freeman Paragraph
“Now I’m lost”
One of my favourite albums of all eternity is The National’s Boxer
. There’s something about that album that I can’t quite describe concisely or accurately or without reference to another, completely unrelated, album. In fact, if I were to come close to capturing the sound of that album, it would take me at least three hundred words’ worth of tangential, supposedly informative, metaphor. I am not going to write about Boxer
here – I am going to write about The Mars Volta’s De-Loused in the Comatorium
. The Mars Volta have certainly done some fascinating things within the field of progressive music, and I will not elaborate any more on this. Let’s look at the instruments. The drums are interesting and do lots of fast, rhythmic things which have destabilised my normally invulnerable powers of articulation. The guitars are loud and inventive, and I can find a part of what makes me me in their sound. That’s it for now, I’ll be back later to give another of your favourite albums the same treatment.
The Dwarf Paragraph
This album is by no means short.
The Randomly Generated Paragraph
In order to understand our selves, we must first understand De-Loused in the Comatorium. There are many factors which influenced the development of De-Loused in the Comatorium. While it has been acknowledged that it has an important part to play in the development of man, its influence on western cinema has not been given proper recognition. Inevitably De-Loused in the Comatorium is often misunderstood by the upper echelons of progressive service sector organisations, obviously. With the primary aim of demonstrating my considerable intellect I will now demonstrate the complexity of the many faceted issue that is De-Loused in the Comatorium.
The Psychedelic/Unchartered Paragraph.
I felt the burning of a lava lamp’s gloom on my figurative third breast as I lie in bed dreaming about a mountain range with a huge tower on top of the highest peak. Sto improvvisamente at the top of the tower and it’s rely pretty and icanseeallaround and the mountains are starting to swirl around me and now they’re tapdancing.
The Really Negative Paragraph
Innovation in itself is a good quality and is to be prized in the utmost by all sensible men of typical polar sensibilities. There is something magical about it; the way it brings to mind the image of a blind man walking along a dark corridor with a lantern, uncertain of where he is going and how he is getting there but covering new, mysterious ground nevertheless. This aura of undiscovered mystique envelopes innovation and makes it one of mankind’s greatest qualities. However, The Mars Volta devalues all of the qualities that made innovation great in the first place. The Mars Volta is not a blind man with a lantern, it is an elephant dragging a lit pyre behind it, which burns and destroys all the musical heritage it comes upon. It is not the Zelda-esque fantasy of normal innovation, it is a depraved body of occult shamanism that is comparable only with monstrosities such as Gravelord Nito and that talking Coyote in the Gone books.
I suppose I have to back myself up now, so here we go. The archetypical track, Cymatic ESP
starts with casual ambience. It’s pleasant but also completely useless. However, this introduction (which has about as much musical value as the panda has environmental value) is replaced about a minute in by what I can only describe as a chainsaw solo. That’s right, a chainsaw. It’s like Omar Rodriguez Lopez powered up a chainsaw and was trying to create music by cutting a concrete wall in two. This period of agonising awfulness carries on for most of the song, until it stops thirty seconds before the end. We then have a koto solo, a throat singing extravaganza and a dictionary burning all at the same time. Then the song ends and balance is restored to the universe.
The Counter-Negative Paragraph
...but that chainsaw is a really interesting innovation and actually sounds damn good! I'm glad these guys did what they did; it's fun and catchy and works for me!
The Final Paragraph
In summary, the informative thread of this review is about as coherent as the narrative and music of this album. It makes a limited amount of sense, relies on drastic changes of tone and will likely provoke extreme reactions of various kinds. Its content is liberally arranged, highly self-indulgent and notably pretentious, yet also (forgive me) largely indifferent to its audience.