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The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute CD (album) cover


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1006 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars ˇFeliz Cinco De Mayo! You know, a lot of people relate this day to Mexico's independence day, but that is on the 16th of September. This day is celebrated, though, as it marks Mexico beating France in the battle of Puebla in 1862. I thought, with such a celebratory day, I'd give a little something to celebrate, and what better way than listening to one of my all time favorite bands of The Mars Volta, specifically my personal all-time favorite from them, Frances The Mute.

In terms of alt prog, I think Deloused was the genre's Fragile, but Frances The Mute is the genre's Close To The Edge. I consider this, namely in the fact this is a big album for me, as it really made me wish to push myself to look further into this strange and wild world of prog rock. I listened to this album in late 2021, and at the time I never really liked The Mars Volta all too much, but when I listened to Frances for the first time, I really knew this was an album that is worthy of being called a masterpiece, but it wouldn't be a little later into 2022 that I knew WHY this album is a masterclass of prog rock.

For one, compared to the bombastic but very controlled Deloused, Frances marks when The Mars Volta went from boys to men, as they matured dramatically, not only in music, but in creativity, and just straight up bizarreness. The music here is this chaotic butchery of what Deloused put down, and not only rips it to shreds, but rebuilds it into this weird mix of psychedelic infused latino rock, jazz, hardcore, avant garde rock, drone, and just so much more. They also cranked the latino and hispanic scores to 11, with scores written in a more latino-focused sound and energy, utilizing rhythms that ferment through salsa sounds, and moments of samba, with lyrics often times written and sung in Spanish, such as L'via L'viaquez and Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus.

At first, this strange mix of various styles, genres, and sounds may seem like it'd be the worst time ever, and to those who do think this, I can totally get it, but I just absolutely love it. The band pulls this giant, chaotic bull by the horns, and rides it until the very end. This disorganized but energetic and lively music is what I drive for with The Mars Volta, and is a big reason why this album always struck me as amazing since it does it the best.

This album isn't all chaos though, there are a lot of downtimes in the songs too, namely The Widow and Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. While I love the fast and hardcore rhythms and energy found here, the times of slow, reflective, but equally bizarre music just washes over me, and I love every second of them. This also goes for the ambient and drone pieces from song to song. While it is very divided among fans, and I do see why, I think they are a neat and actually needed element, to let each song settle and transition smoothly into the next. I feel like removing that part of the album just wouldn't work as well, and in fact, would actually ruin the album for me personally.

I think another factor I really love about this album is just the bizarreness of it all, with lyrics containing nonsensical phrases and descriptions, but it is stuff that Cedric sings with such energy and power, that, while I may not understand fully what he is trying to portray, I can definitely feel the energy, so I don't even care, I am here along the ride, no matter what you have to say.

Speaking of Cedric, the musicianship here is just immaculate. Omar, Cedric, and the rest of the band put forth this cathartic instrumental palette that I will eat up anytime, anywhere, and in their giant substream of sounds do I just feel their energy flow through me. Sure, the energy may be extreme and even a little dark and scary, but I live for the fear here, and I think people who may not like this album should take this album into, not one that is the same prog fanfare of Renaissance, or King Crimson, but one that isn't fanfare at all, and more of this dark and underground punk palette, and simply just experience. That is the best way to listen to this album in my opinion, just alone, with nothing around you, and just experiencing the music at hand. I say, from my experience, it works like a charm.

I don't have much more to say other than to just listen to this album. Even if you may not like it, I still say it is an essential listen in both prog, and music in general. This album is one I doubt I will ever stop liking. It is just THAT good.

Dapper~Blueberries | 5/5 |


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