the jupiter deltaPosted: June 6, 2009
I’ve recently been given the privilege of listening to The Mars Volta’s latest album, Octahedron weeks before it’s release. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I put my tempered ears to the task.
Since their birth in 2001, they’ve constantly been growing as a band or if you will, fungus. Constantly on the innovative and experimental side of things, the band’s leader, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, has virulently kept up his quest to find musical satisfaction. I myself am a big fan of the band he previously played in, At The Drive-In. So naturally, I was open to this new ‘mars volta’ thing he was doing at the time. De-Loused In The Comatorium, their first album as a band, was a perfect example of the repressed energies left over from the ATDI days being released and relinquished. Giving way to the album that changed everything, Frances The Mute. On Frances, not only had the music changed, but the musicians and lineup had as well. This time around, Rodriguez-Lopez’s longtime friend, John Frusciante, played a more important role in the guitar department and keeping with the ‘constant innnovation’ that i mentioned earlier, a heavy assortment of horns and synth fields. A bit isolating to the immediate fanbase, but one of open arms to an entirely new generation and legion of fans that were more than happy when the band’s third album, Amputechture, a amalgamation of the band’s previous efforts and techniques with some new latin flavor, was born. An important distinction of this album from the others is it’s not being a concept album. Since The Mars Volta’s career began, every single album had a story to it. The first following the comatose hero Cerpin Taxt, the second following a story found in a journal in the back seat of a car, and now, something completely different. It certainly was suprising. By this time I had come down from the hype and had now began analyzing the band’s success and technique and overall appeal. I felt that, while their newer efforts are as convoluted musically as one of Richard d. James’ cells, they still didn’t appeal to me as much as their first album did. It’s raw energy reminiscent of their ATDI days which I long for so. So when they came around with their fourth album, The Bedlam In Goliath, this time not only with a concept, but it’s own personal relation to the band’s life, I was a bit skeptical. The long songs were back, as were the song titles that expanded my mental lexicon. However, the new spin was that this album’s concept surrounded a supposed demon in a ouija board that haunted the band for a time while they entered the studio. I learned the story, didn’t pay it too much attention, and listened to the album. It wasn’t bad. However, I wasn’t suprised. I think that one of the detriments of musical experimentation is that there’s a certain point where convolution removes the possibility of the element of surprise. There weren’t too many things going on in the album that I didn’t already see coming from Rodriguz-Lopez and his “don’t call us prog because we’re not prog–oh just a moment we need to go record this 20-minute feedback opus” cohorts. So i passed it along and left it to sit on my shelf.
And now, as the penultimate track on Octahedron, Copernicus, plays, I feel that I have enjoyed my experience. This album, unbelievably, is a breath of fresh air. It isn’t pelting me with off-key notes and new time signatures and believe it or not, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s vocals aren’t polluted with new words from his ‘mumble to grumble’ sentence structure formula. It’s a genuinely entertaining listen. Octahedron, describedly lovingly by Bixler-Zavala in an interview a few days ago as the band’s ‘acoustic’ album, certainly lives up to it’s hype. It’s a nice and calm break for the band, and I congratulate them on a job well-done.
Octahedron joins your stores in a little over two weeks. June 23rd is the magic date for the US, June 26th for the rest of the world.
There will be no post from this album today because I am a sane human being and enjoy not being in jail.