Exposé Online banner

The Mars Volta — Frances the Mute
(Universal B0004129-02, 2005, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2006-05-01

Frances the Mute Cover artIf you poke around online for reviews of this album, you’re likely to find everything from “masterpiece” to “piece of crap.” Well, anything that sparks that much disagreement can’t be all bad, right? Honestly, most mainstream critics seem to be ill-equipped to deal with a band like The Mars Volta, who, in spite of their fairly high profile, aren’t trying to make mainstream music. I’m not sure what they are trying to make, but pop-chart singles are not part of the scenario. If you’re the kind of movie-goer who wants all loose ends tied up and all questions answered before the credits roll, chances are you’re not the kind of music fan who will go for this sprawling inconclusive edifice. You just have to go with the flow and enjoy each moment as it passes; don’t try to put the pieces together or make sense of the whole. The elements of their debut album are present here – the lengthy songs with unpredictable wandering arrangements, the high energy, the strange impressionistic lyrics full of invented words, and the intense vocals. There are passages of strange noises, effects, and eerie ambiance, there are hyperactive funk-inspired riffs, there are percolating congas with latin chords, there are abrupt left-field diversions. What are we supposed to make of titles like “Pour Another Icepick,” “Multiple Spouse Wounds,” and “Facilis Descenus Averni”? The musicianship is as impressive as the imagination, and I’m intrigued by the whole confusing thing. A little confusion helps you keep perspective in life.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 33, 2005 releases

Related artist(s): The Mars Volta

Latest news

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more

2017-04-16
Allan Holdsworth RIP – Surely in the list of artists who have contributed to the sound of modern music, there is a special spot for guitarist Allan Holdsworth. His name is known to virtually every student of the instrument in jazz and rock, and his style has been so widely emulated that it's hardly worth mentioning anymore — we can just assume that every guitarist has Holdsworth as an influence. » Read more

2017-02-20
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more

2017-01-31
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more

2017-01-30
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Jack o' the Clock and Zero Times Everything, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Marc Ceccotti - M.A.S.C. – I heard that this was the new Edhels album all the way up to the time that I got it. Anyway, Ceccotti was more or less the brains behind Edhels, and his first solo album is definitely in the vein of...  (1993) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues