First and foremost, you have to appreciate what vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist, producer extraordinaire Omar A. Rodriquez-Lopez of The Mars Volta are doing in a time where mainstream music is all about dollars and cents. You might not be into the indie and prog-rock thing but you can’t ignore what this band is doing in this current day and age. They have in fact conquered the men in suits. They simply do things their way and their latest masterpiece; Francis The Mute is no different. The hot shots at Universal didn’t even hear a second of this album until it was finished. Also, to classify this album as indie rock or prog-rock would be unfair. It seems the word indie is thrown around more and more these days for bands that aren’t pop enough for radio play, but really don’t deserve to be forced into the genre when their music contains not one ounce of stimulating, thought provoking material at all. So even I’m at fault when I use those words to describe this music, but what else can I say when The Mars Volta hold a sound that is beyond unique? Well, I guess you could say their music is in a league of their own. The Mars Volta are defining their own genre of music; a genre that centers on ambition and aspiration above everything else.
While the guys in The Mars Volta claim this isn’t truly a concept album, it’s hard not to believe that everything and anything these guys play musically isn’t in fact conceptual on some level. Centered on a character from a diary that was found in the back seat of a car, you can’t help but think there is a deep, important, underlying meaning to this story. What it is, well I guess that’s the mystery and intrigue that make The Mars Volta so fascinating and interesting. The album is full of loose ends in the story but I think that’s part of what is going on.
Francis The Mute is a bewildering five-part structured, 77-minute cadenced and rhythmic composition that tells the story of our character mentioned above. The songs even contain movements in the arrangements. When your average song time is around 12 minutes and your longest track is over a half-hour long, inserting movements here and there really add to the story telling aspect of the album. Who would’ve have ever thought one song lasting around 31 minutes long would end and leave you feeling somewhat unfulfilled? That’s the magic and enchantment behind this music, you want to follow the story and you want to discover the ending. It is really arduous and challenging at times to follow the path when the vocals turn to Spanish rather than English. But what keeps you from slipping away is you can still catch on as to what is going on because the music then provides the peaks and valleys of the tale. One aspect that really lacks on this album is that the songs don’t flow as evenly into each other as they did on De-Loused in the Comatorium but the guitar work is as magnificent and peculiar as ever; very little lingering, and consistent musically all the way through.
It’s very hard to pinpoint at times whether you adore the actual music of The Mars Volta, or the ambition and willingness of the band to offer something so eccentric at times you have no clue what the hell is going on. But when it comes down to it, these guys are not just doing something different, they are doing things rarely achieved before.