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


The Mars Volta


Heavy Prog

4.06 | 861 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars This band defies easy categorisation; they can be called progressive, though they themselves refute the label.Their music certainly does have complex structures; the pieces are lengthy; they are clearly good musicians; but it also has a raw energy which is perhaps why I have heard the "punk" label attached to them. I can hear touches of King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Led Zep and Henry Cow in there, but these are fleeting, and it's not possible to define their music easily by reference to other bands. The style can be bizzare; take L'Via L' Viaquez (track 3) - Spanish(?) lyrics matched to a driving, hard riff, then followed by a chorus in twisted English ("the walls they tightly wrapped in tape"..?), sang over a salsa beat. However ridiculous that sounds, their music has got a grip of me, and I find I have been playing this and their first album "De-Loused in The Crematorium" almost non-stop for the past three weeks. They do have some great riffs - towards the conclusion of "Cygmus...", in the aforementioned "L'Via" and on the first part of "Cassandra Gemini". Another reviewer has noted that there is a lot of noise on the album - there certainly are some atmospheric, ambient sections of well, yes I guess you have to call it noise, but after several listenings I find it all works, although maybe these go on just a little too long here and there (like, the first 4 minutes of "Miranda"). This is not comfortable music to listen to; the vocals are often shrill; the music shifts - sometimes uncomfortably - from style to style, theme to theme. But if like me your definition of prog includes the words radical and challenging then you should try them out.

Which of their albums should you try first? I would say "De-Loused" is slightly easier to listen to (that's a relative term), but "Frances" has more prog references in it. Q magazine's Prog Special put this album in their Top 20 prog albums to try; perhaps they were right when they said (I paraphrase) - "a 30 minute long track called Cassandra Gemini, a Strom Thorgeson cover, and still they say they're not prog? Methinks they doth protest too much..."

Phil | 4/5 |


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