The Mars Volta - The Mars Volta Music Album Reviews

The Mars Volta - The Mars Volta Music Album Reviews
On the duo’s first album in 10 years, Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala mellow out, abandoning their unhinged prog opuses for a kind of airy, Caribbean yacht rock.

From the very beginning, the stadium-sized, major-label version of the Mars Volta never made any sense. The duo spent its first 10 years defined by an emotive improvisational style that was both technically proficient and utterly chaotic, a self-described “free-jazz entropy” that felt wholly out of place on alternative rock radio, never mind MTV and the Billboard charts. Bandleader Omar Rodríguez-López admitted as much while promoting their third album, Amputechture, in 2006: “We expected the band, from the beginning, to fail.”

But it’s that dissonance and artful madness that drew people to them, colored in no small part by a bewilderment that music like this had even escaped the underground at the turn of the century. Between the Mars Volta’s formation in 2001 and their breakup in 2012, Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala made music propped up by tension and intense pressure, waging sonic battles that they didn’t always win. But even after dissolving the band, they were never far apart, playing on each other’s solo projects, reuniting their previous band, At the Drive-In, and forming yet another one, Antemasque. Their new self-titled album is their first as the Mars Volta in 10 years: Recorded in secret to evade the watchful eye of a vengeful cult, it is a look toward the future from artists seeking to shed the burden of their past.

From the first notes, it’s clear the Mars Volta have mellowed out. The Latin percussion that once propelled their compositions toward the brink is now softened with a light funkiness, creating a sort of airy, Caribbean yacht rock. Tempos have slowed, tracks are much shorter (only two extend past four minutes), and the absence of tension offers a clarity often missing from their early work. The music is pleasant and inviting, punctuated by subtle flourishes rather than violent attacks. The relatively standard pop structures lift the veil created by their more characteristic wonky time signatures and lyrical abstractions; this is as vulnerable as they’ve ever been together.

Yet the same clarity that makes The Mars Volta the band’s most “accessible” record to date also reveals a darkness to Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics that hasn’t always been easy to decipher. It’s not the first time that Bixler-Zavala has sung in Spanish, but it does feel like the first time he actually wants us to understand what he has to say. Even at the band’s high-water mark, when he was writing about a friend’s overdose, subsequent coma, and eventual suicide, Bixler-Zavala’s impressionistic language served as a barrier between himself and the listener; you might have felt the pain and torment, but deciphering the narrative was difficult. His lyrics here are both direct and autobiographical, fueled by the seething rage that can only come from the pain of seeing someone you love suffer. “And if you want, I can bury him out by the Salton Sea in an empty grave,” he sings on “Vigil.” “The past has a way of coming clean.”

A fair amount of that clarity comes from the very public court case in which Bixler-Zavala’s family is currently embroiled. Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Cedric’s wife, is one of four women to accuse actor Danny Masterson of rape; Masterson is awaiting trial on three counts and faces 45 years in prison. The women and Cedric would later sue the Church of Scientology (of which the Bixler family were members) for allegedly surveilling and harassing them in Masterson’s defense, even going so far as to kill two of Carnell’s dogs. The ordeal has dominated the couple’s lives, and the compounded trauma, fear, paranoia, and righteous pursuit of justice loom large throughout the album.

It’s clear that Scientology had a profound effect on the band, as well. Cedric Bixler-Zavala initially looked to the church for support in (successfully) kicking his $1,000-a-week weed habit, but Rodríguez-López admits that Bixler-Zavala’s adoption of “absolutist” ideas ultimately led to the Mars Volta’s hiatus. That they only felt free to return to the Mars Volta once Bixler-Zavala got a peek behind the curtain of the religious cult is evidence that the story of the Mars Volta is that of two men who have loved each other for decades and are compelled to create together.

While much criticism of the Mars Volta has proceeded from an ill-defined concept of “self-indulgence,” this record—free of the noodling, non-linear song structure, and mad lyrical ravings that inspired so much derision—feels like their most intentionally self-indulgent. Abandoning their extremely specific aesthetic in favor of a more streamlined, personal approach, it’s nearly impossible to contextualize within the rest of the band’s oeuvre: More than just a new direction, it feels like the work of a completely different group, and with so many to choose from, it’s not immediately evident why they chose to label it a Mars Volta release. The previous iteration of the band thrived at the border of brilliant and unhinged, and The Mars Volta is too conventional to be called their best work. But it is certainly their most honest: a sober tale written by survivors, the first uneasy step into unfamiliar territory.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Mars Volta - The Mars Volta Music Album Reviews The Mars Volta - The Mars Volta Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 29, 2022 Rating: 5


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