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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.07 | 1007 ratings

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4 stars This is a very self-indulgent and pretentious release for 2005. Francis The Mute shows everything that is both good and bad about The Mars Volta. It's a very long album as well. So long in fact that they had to take the title track off the album. Even though that song is not included, the lyrics to it are under the CD. One of the reasons it's so long is because of the long, drawn out spacey sections full of effects. I admire them for putting out such a un- mainstream album at the time, but this really could have used some editing.

The album begins and ends with the same section of vocals and guitar. After the beginning, "Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus" goes into funky Latin rock territory. Later changes to a spacey part. Then a part with snare rim and nice laid back guitar playing. After a guitar solo. Cedric's vocals come back. Then goes back to the main part of the song before a new riff on wah bass. This part is called "Con Sofo" and gets reprised later. Street noises and sequencers at the end.

"The Widow" was the first single/video for the album. Sounds like a 'classic rock' song. Some trumpet here from Chili Pepper Flea. Last half of the song is just sounds that are sped up and slowed down. "L'Via L'Viaquez" is a highlight. Begins with tape effects and a looped drum part. Really awesome guitar playing in this song. Most of the song alternates between a rockin' part with Spanish lyrics, and a more subdued Latin section with English lyrics. Great drumming throughout. In the middle is a different section to the other two. At the end it sounds like Cedric is drowning.

"Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" starts with various ambient sounds for the first four minutes. Reminds me of Gong. Then some trumpet and acoustic guitar. I love the main melody in this song. Cedric starts singing with some tremoloed guitar. Later drums appear. The "Con Sofo" riff is reprised at the end. "Cassandra Gemini" is over a half hour long! I listen to this as one piece and never skip any part. Oddly enough, though this is so long, it has the least amount of spacey 'filler' sections. It is also the most consistently heavy part of the whole album.

"Cassandra" has great guitar playing throughout. Some manipulated vocals. Occasionally some orchestra and piano. It changes very often. Early on there is a type of 'chorus' that goes: "there's no light". This part comes back later. I like the part where Cedric goes "alalalalala". At one point you hear "25 wives in the lake tonight" repeated. There is a cool riff on guitar doubled with the orchestra. Then a bit of synth and math-rock style guitar. After a nice part based on three notes. Later some organ and guitar freak-outs. Some sax squonking. Some Mellotron. Goes back to "there's no light" part. Ends with the same part as the beginning of the album.

Francis is not as consistent as De-Loused or Amputechture. But it still has some of the best moments this band ever recorded. This was a shock to people who already thought De-loused was self-indulgent. You may or may not like the compositions of Omar Rodrigues-Lopez or the lyrics of Cedric Bixler Zavala, but you can't deny that this band knows how to play and are not afraid of taking chances. One of the more important prog albums of the last ten years. This deserves a 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

zravkapt | 4/5 |


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