Thank GOD for The Mars Volta. Finally we have an album that is on the same level as their 2003 debut De-Loused in the Comatorium. I shit you not when I say that NOTHING has come even close to matching De-Loused. My only fear for the Volta was whether they'd be able to follow up such a ground-breaking, Earth-shattering album. Well, rest assured children, they blew the fuckin' roof off, and it won't be long before the entire world is screaming their praises.

Frances The Mute runs 77-minutes straight through, no breaks, no cuts, no bullshit. This is straight bombast. Like the band themselves, I'm sick of hack writers trying to give this sound a name. Is it prog? Yes, it is progressive. Is it emo? Yes, it is damn emotional. How about rock? Gimme a break - nothing rocks harder. From this point on, we call The Mars Volta's music simply that, "Music by The Mars Volta." Stop trying to figure it out, just give yourself to it and ye shall reap rewards far greater than your wildest dreams.

Loosely based upon a journal that departed band member Jeremy Ward found while working as a repo man, Frances is full of hidden meaning, twisted tales of "a mink handjob in sarcophagus heels," and enough Latin-laced rock, Samba-infused soul, and fictitious, futuristic word play that even after 50 spins through my head, I'm still chasing its beauty.

Childhood friends, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar, music, producer) and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (lyrics, vocals) have grown into music's finest duo. Every Plant needs a Page, and every band needs a Bonham. Welcome drummer Jon Theodore. Take "L'via L'viaquez" for example. Backed by Theodore's relentless beats, Omar welcomes Chili Pepper John Frusciante to join the fun as the two create some of the most unique, compelling, and impressive guitar work to hit ears in years. While "L'via" slams in the most classic of rock riffs, it splits open to reveal Latin legend Larry Harlow on piano and clav creating some sort of Salsa-on-acid sound that either comes from the future or can be found deep in the past. Add the tweaked-out, highly disturbing vocal work of Cedric, and we are clearly staring at superstars.

As if all this isn't enough, just try to digest the half hour closer "Cassandra Gemini." Divided into five segments (with no breaks), "Cassandra" is a brain-busting, mind-fucking mess of a marathon. The band blows out of the gate like a megaton shotblast. Omar's guitar melts the paint while Cedric scares the weak away. The whole thing is so overwhelming you may wonder if those are really flutes. Is that really Flea on trumpet? And what the fuck?... A full string ensemble... what's going on here? I'm lost... The world is imploding and folding over on itslef... Like the train wreck you pass or the UFO in the sky, it causes fear and images of all things dark, yet you can't keep your eyes off it. In the end you find yourself like a bug drawn to the fire - you know it may kill you, but heaven is a finer place than hell... so go, don't fear the red hoods. Dive into the fire. Give yourself to The Mute.

I realize it's only February, but get out your pens (not your pencils) and throw Frances The Mute down for Best of 2005!

JamBase | San Francisco
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[Published on: 2/25/05]

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