The Mars Volta
My opinion is that Frances The Mute sucks. No, I haven’t heard it, I can just smell a crap record a mile away. In fact, I’m so sure that it sucks that I’m going to do something insane to prove it: I’m going to listen to it. Yes, I have apparently gone mad. Mad enough even to put on headphones and give it a deep, careful listen. I will actually pay attention to it. At certain crucial junctures, I may even close my eyes. If I pull this wacky stunt off, it shall forever be remembered as the most madcap gambit in the history of fake internet music journalism, even surpassing the time the fake journalists at Pitchfork Media listened to an entire Xiu Xiu record and publicly claimed to enjoy it.
Mars Volta records, if you believe the people who are dumb enough to enjoy them, are ever-changing collages of noise and melody, filled with the sort of shit that hack music reviewers would call “shifting textures” and “mutating structures.” Basically, that means that the album is not made of real songs, like real albums are. As such, I’ll break down these songs by track, and indicate the times at which things happen. I encourage you to illegally download the album and laugh along with me, or at least share my pain.
Track 1: Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus
It should come with a special velvet bag to protect the listener from the music.
Okay, title is bad. Acoustic guitar intro makes me feel like I’m about to get into some bitchin’ Queensryche. Okay, at 45 seconds, the singer starts wailing in Spanish. I wonder if his Spanish lyrics make more sense than the English ones? At a minute and ten seconds, we get some masturbatory guitar tap-and-squeal antics. Two minutes in, I think I heard him say “bastard mastication.” Oh god, is this thing really going to be thirteen minutes long? At three minutes and twenty seconds, I’m treated to the most obnoxious breakdown in the history of rock and roll, which is a little like getting repeatedly rabbit-punched by a spastic flyweight clown. Then it gets all serious-sounding, and the singer squeals “bring me the flame… shizzle troop… those nicotine stains.” At four minutes, mercifully, the first movement seems to be over, as indicated by a descending noisy sound of some sort. I don’t care what kind of sound it is, really, as long as it declares and end to sounds prior to it, which were awfully bad sounds indeed. Everything is all quiet now, save for some tickly drums and an extremely noncommittal guitar solo.
At five minutes and ten seconds, the guitarist sounds like he’s repeatedly trying to play a guitar lick but screwing it up every time. If The Mars Volta intend to paint vivid pictures with their music, it’s working: if I close my eyes, I can see a teenager on a stool in Guitar Center trying to impress us with his avant-garde (i.e. out of key) riffs. Oh sweet, speaking of that: at five minutes and thirty seconds, we’re treated to some wicked fuckin’ tremolo dive-bombs! Rock that Squire Budget Strat, junior! Oh god, there’s like eight minutes to go before I’m even done with the first track. What the heck have I gotten myself into? I can’t back out now, you’ll think I’m a pussy. This guitar solo is seriously trying my patience though; it reminds me of when Neil Young starts making horrible faces and plonking away at his guitar in concert, and the band just has to ignore him and hope he realizes he can’t play before another ten minutes pass. Okay, at about seven minutes, something resembling a song happens.
I think the general Mars Volta strategy is to inundate us with so much horrible noise that anything with half a tune stands out as pure glory. Sort of like a Guided By Voices record. Now the singer is yelling “will they feed us some hooves.” Somebody feed this man some fucking hooves so he’ll shut up. No matter what else is going on in this song, at least it’ll always be anchored by irritating, nonsensical guitar arpeggios in the background, and plenty of cymbal crashes. Nine minutes and forty seconds or so, and we’re treated to some awesome sound effects of screen doors closing and people yelling, which segues into some electronic noise. I’m not sure if this noise is intentional or if it’s just the sound of my poor brain throbbing after putting up with ten minutes of the most directionless crap I’ve ever heard. Hey, oh boy, car noises, I sure am glad I spent ten bucks on this. I couldn’t have gone outside and heard that for free! I guess it’s a smart move, since Mars Volta fans don’t go outside much. Track over, thank the lord.
Track 2: The Widow
This one starts out sounding like a song, but the lyrics have been stolen and translated to Korean and back ten times with some sort of automatic computer translator. Uh oh, thirty seconds in, it sounds like the singer is getting a little agitated! He screamed a little bit and I think I know why: a chorus seems to have escaped his lips. The thing he feared most in this world, a conventional element of rock and roll, has unintentionally passed through him. Or maybe he’s just nonplussed because he seems to be channeling Geddy Lee. Fifty seconds in, he tells us that he’ll “never sleep alone.” Of course not. He’ll always have his insanely overblown musical ego by his side. The best thing I can say about this song is that it sounds like Seventies rock, and I hate Seventies rock. A minute and forty five in, he sets up one of those homoerotic little hard-rock exchanges where he screams a little bit of melody and then the guitar player does one of those diddly diddly diddly things and then he screams again and more guitar twiddling. And of course it climaxes in another chorus and we’re left with the disturbing feeling that the singer and guitarist have just committed a playful sexual act on each other.
Now it’s three minutes and ten seconds, and the song is over. But wait! The song is six minutes long, according to my stereo. So what do I hear now? Feedback, electronic noises, and filler noise crap! Jeez, the song started out so conventionally that I was getting worried that I wouldn’t get my fair share of stupid, pointless, infuriating noise. I’m sucked into their fiendish strategy yet again: even though the next song is probably going to be as bad as this one, I’m praying for it to begin so I don’t have to listen to any more pointless noise. End of track.
Track 3: L’via L’viaquez
Oh man, another twelve-minute song. I am kicking myself. Why couldn’t I buy the new Mike Jones album and listen to that instead? Okay, it takes this song forty five seconds to kick in to a bitchin’ guitar solo and some Spanish vocals. The advantage of vocals in Spanish is that if you don’t speak Spanish you can’t understand the stupid shit that this guy is undoubtedly singing. At two and a half minutes in, the singer cues the end of the first part of the song by screaming like a girl a couple of times, and then his voice gets all whispery and queer and the beat goes all salsa and my sensibilities beg for mercy. And as if to anticipate the fact that I was about to say the song couldn’t get any worse, I’m treated to a nice little burst of foul noise. I think the worst part of this song is that, since I took a few years of Spanish in college, I half-understand it but it still makes no sense. It’s like it’s taunting me by putting together meaningless sentences in Spanish, so I can understand the words but can’t parse them into anything meaningful. Okay, back to the slow salsa bit again, and then another grating, squealing miniature guitar solo.
Six and a half minutes in, the stereo channels switch the vocals back and forth in the headphones so it sounds like I’m surrounded by ASSHOLES singing BAD NONSENSE into my FUCKING EARS. It gets even worse around seven minutes and fifteen seconds, because he’s whispering in alternating stereo channels now, so I’m treated to an exciting simulation of going bonkers. Well, I’m eight and a half minutes in, and the song has settled into a dull little Latin shuffle, which is better than annoying noises but worse than nothing at all. Nine minutes brings me another half-cocked guitar solo. Solos this self-consciously “experimental” make me miss radical hair-metal finger-tap solos. That’s sort of like a gangrenous foot making me miss an ingrown toenail. Eleven minutes in, wacky experimental noise. Maybe I’ll get used to it and start liking it! Or maybe I’ll start liking the DMV, or indigestion.
Track 4: Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore
The Seventies are BACK!
Birdy noises! Special guest appearance by Sounds of the Forest Relaxation Tape. Okay, we’re a minute into the song, I’m done with the fucking sounds of the forest, thank you very much. Let’s just get this song started so we can get it over with. It’s a bit like being in the dentist’s waiting room: you just want the real pain to begin so you can stop anticipating the pain. Okay, three minutes in, still no song, now I know they’re just fucking with me. Show yourselves, Mars Volta! I hear you hiding out there in the bushes, waiting to attack with more god-awful song! Well, three minutes and forty five seconds, still noise. I think I can hear the computer from the original Star Trek in the background, though. You know, the noise that went “bweeweewee…. bweeweewee.” It’s there. Four minutes in, there’s a hint of guitar, finally. Not that I want to hear more spectacular Mars Volta guitar, but I’m tired of being so bored by this song. Four fifteen, some brass comes in. That’s ambitious at least, it makes it sound like the soundtrack to a psychedelic western.
Okay, the singer is singing in a really high squeal, and I instantly miss the forest noises and Star Trek computer. I’m six minutes in, out of thirteen. However, this is the last over-ten-minute track on the album, so at least the rest of the crap I hear will be in bite-sized crap-memes. Look up the lyrics to this song, guys, they’re comically bad. I don’t know whether it’s a blessing or a curse that this song has traded in head-splittingly obnoxious noise for pure tedium. Eight and a half minutes in, it picks up for about thirty seconds and then gets dull again. Eight and a half minutes is a long time to wait for such a crappy climax. Okay, the song is boring again, so pardon me while I go on a strange interlude: imagine somebody playing this in their car. That would be pathetic. Imagine someone cruising the streets with their windows down and the Mars Volta blasting out of their whip. If they wanted to impress anyone with their stereo, they’d have to drive around the block five times until they had something other than static, snatches of Tijuana brass, or forest noises. Eleven and a half minutes in, there’s some marvelously annoying distorted hissing. Thank you for that, Mars Volta, you’ve won me over with your “textures” and your “structures.” You know what else has textures? An iguana, and those motherfuckers will whip the shit out of you with their tails. And you know what else has structure? A nazi death camp, you anti-semites. Okay, I’m rambling because I’m bored. Did I mention this song is thirteen minutes long?
Track 5: Cassandra Gemini
Well, the guitar player is jittering away in his inimitable style, and I’m pretty sure the singer got drunk during the boring bits of the last song, because he’s slurring like a moron now. Forty seconds in, the song shifts down. I’m glad about that, I was worried that somebody was going to fall over and get hurt. Oh man, now his voice is all distorted, he sounds like that woman in the commercial who still smokes even though she has a hole in her throat. I think I just heard him say the words “handjob” and “sarcophagus.” So I’ll give him some credit for giving me the mental image of a guy in a pith helmet jerking off a mummy. Two minutes in, we get a sax breakdown. This song is a bit more song-like than most of the other crap on this album, so it gets marks for that. It gets a D- instead of an F, I guess. It seems to have a chorus, which doesn’t stop it from being irritating noise, but at least it’s throwing a bone to those who bought the album looking for music, instead of music-flavored tarantula shit.
Track 6: Tarantism
Dang it, this is just a continuation of the same song. I didn’t notice that the track had changed. It just goes right on into the next track with no distinction. I was hoping for a new song, because I was totally done with this one. Two minutes and fifteen seconds in, the singers makes a creepy little noise. Yeah, that’s pretty much the distinguishing feature of this song: it featured a creepy little noise at one point. When people go to their friends’ houses and see Frances the Mute sitting on their shelf, they might say “hey, play the track with the creepy little noise.” Or, more realistically, they might say “why do you own a Mars Volta record, you dipshit?” Okay, this song is even more boring than the song with the forest noises. It has a rudimentary tune, but it just sort of plods along with no direction like a senile outpatient with no family to pick him up and take him to the zoo, so he just sort of wanders around in his little hospital robe talking to whoever he happens to mistake for his dead son. Oh shit, I just made myself a little bit sad. Thanks a lot, Mars Volta, you dicks.
Track 7: Plant A Nail in the blah blah blah why do they even bother naming these tracks
It’s still the same song, and it’s still just as dull as it was before. Luckily, this bit of it is only three minutes long. You know, some people could take three minutes and make a perfectly wonderful song out of it, but Mars Volta just snatches up three minutes and turns it into the ass-end of their retarded prog-epic. I don’t want to go into the whole “I want my three minutes back” song-and-dance, because that’s really never been funny. But let me just say that if I hadn’t spent these three minutes listening to The Mars Volta’s arbitrarily-chopped-up end-of-a-song-bit, I could have spent it getting rich and putting the moves on some foxy chica or something. Speaking of women, I bet the singer of The Mars Volta yells when he has sex. If I’ve learned one thing from Frances the Mute, it’s that this guy almost definitely yells when he has sex. He yells a lot and his woman is thinking “I don’t know, should I tell him not to yell? But what if he’s into it?” And then while she’s thinking about it she’s too distracted to even fake an orgasm, leading the singer to the frustration and insecurity involved in making tedious fucking records like this. Next!
Track 7: Famine Pulse
Another continuation. Another irritating guitar arpeggio. More thumpy drums. I’m at the part of the Hero’s Journey cycle where he hits bottom and thinks about giving up, but then his friends come to his aid. Hold on, let me call one of my friends and ask if I should just give up.
Me: Should I just give up?
Jimmy: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but yes.
Well, it’s good to know I can count on my friends to pull me through. Okay, while that was going on, he started whispering incomprehensibly and making weird noises. The singer, not Jimmy. Jimmy does that too, but he’s not doing it right now. Well, he might be, for all I know, but I’m not on the phone with him anymore. Okay, four minutes in, here’s another grotesque parody of a guitar solo and another annoying breakdown. This time there are even some Seventies-style organs wobbling away in the background. Now he’s saying “I peel back all of my skin,” which reminds me of that awesome skinless woman in Hellraiser II. This record is so bad, it makes me nostalgic for Hellraiser II. Okay, six minutes in, they’re starting to wind this awful thing down. Maybe all the noise and guitar twiddling and wonky drum patterns are just a way of trying to disguise the fact that they’re hopeless at ending songs. Why end a song when you can just let it peter out pathetically?
Track 8: Pisacis (Phra-men-ma)
Jesus, it sounds like they’re still trying to end that last song. Just let it die already! Just fade it out or something, don’t waste my time trying to figure out how to bring this disgusting mess to a close. If I close my eyes I can see all the money they wasted dicking around in the studio flying across my mind’s eye. This sounds like an extended jam session or something, and if there’s one thing that should never be put on record or listened to by human beings, it’s a jam session. Jam sessions are stoned people fucking around without regard to the listener, lost up their own asses, convinced that they’re making important sounds. Don’t drag me into this, Mars Volta. I don’t want to be lost up your asses too.
Track 9: Con Safo
Jesus, this song is still ending. It’s even gotten to the point where the drums start going nuts and weird noises start fading in and the finishing note gets played over and over on the guitar and it’s obvious that the end of this horribly long fucking song is tantalizingly close but not quite within reach and then OH MY GOD they’ve started in with a NEW riff and now it’s picking up again and the end was WITHIN MY SIGHT and now they’re taking it away from me just to be DICKHEADS! It’s like in cartoons when the kid is sitting in school and the clock ticks a minute backward instead of forward right when class is about to end, thus hilariously illustrating the protagonist’s heartbreaking frustration and impatience.
Track 10: Multiple Spouse Wounds
More of the same shit, but this track is only 45 seconds long, so I might as well ignore it because this is as much as I can write before it ends.
Track 11: Sarchophagi
This is the last track, and it’s only 54 seconds long. I think it’s the best song on the record, because it marks the fact that the RECORD IS FINALLY OVER THANK GOD!
Fucking e-mail me aspirin QUICKLY, that album literally gave me a headache.