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The Mars Volta - The Bedlam In Goliath CD (album) cover

THE BEDLAM IN GOLIATH

The Mars Volta

 

Heavy Prog

3.47 | 425 ratings

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Pnoom!
3 stars Rating: C+

The most obvious characteristic of The Mars Volta's latest offering is, of course, its very immediate start. This can be read one of two ways, at least initially. In a very positive way, it can suggest that they're more committed to maintaining the energy level for once, rather than dropping out into pointless spacey sections that are, well, pointless (as they did on each of the previous three CDs). Alternatively, and far more negatively, it could suggest that they really don't have much to say once you strip away the noise. As it happens, it's a little bit of both.

While the energy level on Bedlam in Goliath never relents, this is not always a positive. Getting rid of the spacey sections that often marred De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute (their best two, in my humble opinion) certainly helps, but it's done wisely, here. Consider that De-loused lasted a little over an hour, and, without the spacey portions, would probably have been fifty minutes. The Bedlam in Goliath is one and a half times as long, but, like De-loused, really only has fifty minutes of worthwhile ideas, and the constant energy, which doesn't allow the listener to breathe, gets tiring after such a long time. At least Frances the Mute, which was also of marathon length, had the slower "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" to slow things down. All Bedlam has is the pointless, two-minute "Tourniquet Man." And then, of course, there's the problem that, on some tracks, particularly "Cavalettas," The Mars Volta really has nothing to say. That song in particular is truly a waste of nine minutes. While no other songs are so completely pointless, songs such as Ilyena and Goliath have sections where they really don't do much worthwhile.

All of that said, The Bedlam in Goliath is a very good CD. The opening 1-2 punch of "Aberinkula" and "Metatron" captures The Mars Volta at their very best musically, a musical outburst that kicks the album off with irresistible energy. After a much weaker midsection (with "Ilyena," "Goliath," "Tourniquet Man," and "Cavalettas" in a stretch of five songs), Bedlam picks up again with the excellent sequence of songs starting with "Agadez" and ending with "Soothsayer." "Agadez" sees the funk-metal roots of The Mars Volta finally shining through, and the result is marvelous. On the opposite side of the spectrum, "Soothsayer" has an excellent violin line that gels well with the only appearance of salsa music on the CD, and might well be my favorite song. The closer, "Conjugal Burns," is quite good as well, though it's weaker than the four that precede it.

When Bedlam is at its best, it's because The Mars Volta have managed to push forward their funk-metal roots at an appropriate loud volume, one that highlights their musical ideas. At its worst, Bedlam sees pointless noise used to disguise a startling lack of ideas. Beyond that, the same old complaints about The Mars Volta apply. Their vocals have been going downhill since De-loused and they're still not great here. The bigger problem, though, are appallingly awful lyrics. They were never good, but they've somehow gotten worse. They truly sound like Mad Libs played by choosing random words out a thesaurus and then picking their most obscure synonym, never mind whether it makes sense. How about the part in "Goliath" where the music stops and Cedric spits out something about feeling "a miscarriage coming on." Seriously? And, supposedly, Bedlam has a concept about a possessed Ouija board, which is almost as laughable as the lyrics themselves.

To tell the truth, The Bedlam in Goliath is a fine release, but if you didn't like The Mars Volta before, you probably won't like them now. If you are a Mars Volta fan, definitely check it out, but don't expect a CD along the lines of De-loused or Frances. After you've listened a few times, try taking out "Ilyena," "Goliath," "Tourniquet Man," and "Cavalettas," and you've got an excellent fifty-five-minute CD. While the first two are both fine songs, I don't feel they're necessary to the CD (except perhaps to the impossible concept), and, honestly, fifty-five minutes is enough. Recommended, but only to The Mars Volta's confirmed fans.

Pnoom! | 3/5 |

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