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Friday, February 09, 2007







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The Mars Volta - "Frances the Mute" (GSL, 2005) [key tracks: the whole album!]
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"You can't bend your crooked arms or fold your punctured proof... The air is growing cold and there's nothing you can do. Soon there'll be no gauze inside the confessional, only rows of crows defrocking every breath "
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Today's entry is going to be a special edition, so I can geek put about this LP and have a long weekend without posts. This means I am going to cheat on my three paragraph format (already).
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Ah, The Mars Volta... the band that single-handedly revived my faith in music, rekindled my desire to collect records, and encouraged me to start this site up again. And this album, THIS ALBUM, what a magnificent creative accomplishment! The Mars Volta is , to be too acute in my description, a prog rock band with all sorts of varied roots (having been formed from post-punk band At The Drive In's better parts... Volta uses jazz, psychedelia, metal, Latin ballads, noise, electronica, emo, and hardcore together seamlessly). Their concept albums and meandering improvisational live shows have cemented them as living legends. Unlike most concept albums, they are neither too heavy handed or too obtuse. The story is told through the emotion felt by the characters... either through the tone of voice or the abstract tapestry of words used to describe the narratives. In short, The Mars Volta is the best new band to emerge for a very, very long time. I can think of no other band that is as satisfying and promising as Volta.
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First I'll talk about the pictures. I finally got a hold of the limited edition version of this LP! It comes bagged in a red vinyl bag, and not only has the 3 disc LP itself but the 12 inch single that contains the "missing" song. That song is the album's title track, which sets up the whole concept, yet was left off the album due to CD time restraints (the lyrics are still in the CD's sleeve, behind the CD itself). None of that is hard to find individually, but in this package, all of the records are pressed on glow-in-the-dark vinyl! Unbelievable collectible for a fan of this band, this album, or novelty vinyl.
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The album... wow. Other than being musically perfect (an emotional roller-coaster) it also has a very intriguing story behind it. A friend of the band once worked as a repo man, and in his travels he found a woman's diary. The diary told about her search for meaning and her birth parents. He was shocked to find so many parallels in his own life, and was quick to make this a project for the band. This man, Jeremy Ward, died sadly, and the band decided to champion this concept and made what I consider a life-changing album, and the best LP recorded in over 10 years. Each track tells a segment of the story, focusing on a person involved in this woman (Frances the Mute) and her quest, which builds to a troubling climax as she still struggles with the betrayal and abandonment, and ultimate questions of self.
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Much like Radiohead's "OK Computer," nothing really prepares you for what you begin to hear. I am convinced that hearing this LP for the first time is the closest thing you can get for my generation (and the next younger generation) to feeling what it was like to have heard Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" in its time. At times, this LP will completely distract you from what you are doing... absorbing you to into its tale. Even when the band lashes into Spanish lyrics (a common occurrence on a Volta LP), you can feel the story, the emotions, the consuming sense of curiosity and dread. A true highlight is the song "The Widow," which was a single for the band. And while it stands well as a single, it really doesn't make sense to take anything on this album out of the context of the project as a whole. The song gives you a taste of Frances' haunted psyche and her uneasy descent into self discovery.
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You can easily find this album on CD (or even vinyl) at local record stores. I suggest doing so, and listen to it a few times as a whole, undistributed. And not to cast dispersions on your moral character, but if you are one to "enhance" your listening experience, I can only feel a bit jealous, as I am sure it will be an intense and possibly overwhelming experience. No bad trips, man.
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Spacey, heavy, and entirely too good, this is a must own for all music fans. Even without "Frances the Mute" the song (the intended title/first track on the album, which even the band is quoted as saying 'decodes the whole album'), the CD is a better-than-nothing purchase. And I'd be more than happy to sit you down and play my non-glow-in-the-dark copy of the song for you... Unless you find the rare 3 CD set of the album, the single, and a live DVD. Lemme know if you do...;)
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Horn's up, and long live Omar Rodriguez!
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5 comments:

Rob nob corn cob said...

Sweet vinyl! FTM is amazing, what do you think of Amputechture? Sadly i ownly have the albums on cd (so far, Tremulant EP, De-Loused, Frances + Amp.)

Carl said...

Ampetechture is a great album too! It has a different type of concept... the songs don't tell a story as much as they explore religion and it's negative impacts. Hey, the CDs are in some way superior to the vinyl... you get to listen to the album nonstop! No flipping required! If you download FTM from iTunes, they lump all the last tracks into one, which is so sweet (and better for shuffle mode!). Thanks for reading man, come back anytime!

troy oz. said...

Get to a good record.

Robbo said...

Sell the glow in the dark ftm vinyl to me now!

Carl said...

Dude, you can still get it from Aural Exploits Ebay store I think at a bargain price. And I'd never sell mine..LOL... well , maybe trade for new guittars...