Mars Volta lyrics
April 2, 2005 8:57 PM   Subscribe

The two Mars Volta LPs register for me as stupidly obtuse bullshit, not so much music as they are horrible noise. Still, I'd really appreciate it if anyone could point me towards a thorough analysis of the two albums' concepts, as the few that I've found have been (predictably) vague.
posted by jimmy to Media & Arts (14 answers total)
well that's what they're criticized for no?
have you read pitchforkmedia's reviews? They consistently write good reviews of albums and their contexts.

Frances the Mute
Tremulant EP

Ouch Frances the Mute got rocked pretty hard, but they're mean reviewers anyways. Fader Magazine has done some in dept interviews of the band also, (not sure if you can get the articles online...)

As for myself, I've seen them twice both pre release of deloused, and they put on amazingly energetic and emotional shows, what they're emoting i have no idea, The first show i saw was actually their first get back together concert and it was amazing, Omar collapsed from exhaustion after the set, and that's just from playing guitar!
posted by stratastar at 9:10 PM on April 2, 2005

(Now I'm lost.)

I like bits and pieces of both the 2 full-lengths that I know of, but I cannot listen to either one all the way through. I always end up stopping the CD to put on something with much less adrenaline.

I find myself taking the same approach to At the Drive-In, though I guess their songs are intended to form less of a concept album. Some of those tracks are killer, but I tire quickly of (this type of) rock's focused energy/aggression. (If I didn't, Bad Brains would prolly never leave my CD player.)

As for the concepts, they are similarly as elusive to me as the one about the deaf, dumb, and blind kid who sure played a mean pinball.
posted by dontrockwobble at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2005

it could be that you just dont dig the avante garde/experimental direction they have gone (incorporating influences such as Mr Bungle, the Boredoms, and King Crimson). i know i don't dig it, but i have friends that are huge fans.

allmusic has some good reviews though they don't go a whole lot into the lyrical content, which has always seemed pretty abstract to me
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:42 AM on April 3, 2005

i went out on a search for good stuff about these albums myself a while back, and found nothing that satisfied me at all -- all either meditations on prog rock (blargh) or fanboy b.s. -- so i have no good links to offer, however:

i happen to *love* both albums, mostly for their excesses. i tend to think of them in relation to Alban Berg or Mahler, actually -- give Das Lied von der Erde a listen for comparison of structure. mars volta just doesn't give a shit about song forms, and i think that drives people crazy. so, anyway, my working theory is that they have a lot more to do with, say, early and mid 20th century classical music and perhaps some current composers, like John Zorn. (and if you want to be put off by obtuse noise, well, Zorn's your man.)

(let me qualify my love for both albums by saying that i'm grateful that the lyrics are largely unintelligible, because when i *do* understand them, they're a little... cringeworthy, teen goth-ey.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:35 PM on April 3, 2005

The have you read pitchforkmedia's reviews? They consistently write good reviews of albums and their contexts.

I'm going to have to voice my dissent on this one. Pitchfork is what snobby college kids read to get "in the know." Seriously, read what they've written about the Mars Volta; they get increasingly vicious, even to the point of absurdity in the Frances review. He suggests that they have "masculinity issues" in the first paragraph, for god's sake! Also, he says "never-ending math equation." Now, as a fan of the Mars Volta (ATL 4/29 holler!) I'm often confounded by the tremendous amount of hate they receive in some circles. But I guess it just takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate what they're doing. (on prev: Right on RJ, with the Zorn comparison!)

The two Mars Volta LPs register for me as stupidly obtuse bullshit, not so much music as they are horrible noise. Still, I'd really appreciate it if anyone could point me towards a thorough analysis of the two albums' concepts

Huh? Are you giving an report on music you hate, or something? Cedric Zavala actually wrote a short book to accompany De-loused: here it is. It's purpose is sort of to clear up all the impressionist lyrical weirdness in the album, so it should help a little. But if not, here's a quick synopsis: De-Loused was originally written as a post on Cedric's LiveJournal. It's actually about his girlfriend dumping him for Omar, the guitarist. It's a personal album, chronicling his emotional journey through angst and depression, except with dragons, and three-eyed women in the desert and shit. Now Frances I cant help you on, but some say it's a science fiction political allegory that takes place on the moon in the year 2086. Yeah, hope that helps.
posted by Laugh_track at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2005

The Mars Volta is in fact a progressive rock band, though apparently they didn't set out to be. But the things you find difficult about the albums are also the same sorts of things uninitiated listeners find difficult about about lots of prog albums, and classical and jazz albums for that matter. The song structures are just too complex and/or unfamiliar to understand in one or two listens. What you have to do is listen repeatedly, like a dozen or two dozen times, and keep paying attention during each listen. Eventually your neocortex will have heard it enough times to begin predicting what comes next, and you will begin to grok it and even enjoy it. You will probably find that the enjoyment phase lasts a lot longer than the enjoyment phase of simpler music, and that you will find yourself thinking of it after not listening to it for a while and getting the urge to pull it out and hear it again. Remember, noise is just a very long pattern.
posted by kindall at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2005


i didnt want to open the PFM pandora's box, I agree with you partly on the assessment, but damn there are gems of reviews that they write:

plus its good to be in the know right? i like being in the know!
posted by stratastar at 1:43 PM on April 3, 2005

The third google hit for "mars volta" led me to The Comatorium, where fans have gathered to try to interpret the lyrics. While one might be tempted to write it off as sophomoric and mushroom-induced, it is probably a strong place to start in answering your question, if you're really interested in finding an answer.
posted by rfordh at 2:11 PM on April 3, 2005

I've seen Mars Volta live twice now, but haven't really listened to their albums (because after seeing them live...well, meh). To me, they seemed pretty similar to free jazz (perhaps Zorn fits in here), and were basically deconstructing "rock" music to disassociate it from standard rhythmic or melodic concepts, which in turn makes the music they play seem noodly. As far as I'm concerned, that's just no fun to listen to, but some people dig it.

As far as their live show, they spent a lot more time looking like they were rocking out than they did actually rocking out. Omar would only play his guitar about half the time, spending the rest of the concert with it slung around on his back while he danced or clapped. Cedric would toss the mike stand in the air, climp up on amps and do handsprings all over the place, but the band wasn't really playing anything that would make me want to move like that. They looked intense, but they sure didn't sound it.

At the Drive-In was starting to move in this direction (from a punk rock background), but Volta's taken it a couple steps further.
posted by LionIndex at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2005

On a less serious note, there's this article from last Friday's Guardian...
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:22 PM on April 3, 2005

How bizarre... I just learned of this band about 5 days ago. I picked up a copy of both albums and so far, I'm partial to Frances The Mute, but I like both. I would be surprised if anyone who doesn't generally like this particular genre of music, would find anything to like about this band. But I enjoy bands that wander off and explore various moods, musical influences (like the Latin sound in some of the tracks on FtM), silly time signatures, confusing syncopations, etc... all within one track even.

I don't generally get all wound up in the lyrics... not that they aren't important to me. But I don't qualify a song's worth based on how much I like or dislike what the words are or what they mean. I prefer how the vocals sound, the chosen notes, and how the rhythm of the vocals blend/contrast with the rest of the instruments.

I'd be interested to hear of suggestions of other bands in this vein.
posted by Witty at 4:09 PM on April 3, 2005

Kindall hit this one on the nose. It's not background music, but it's complex enough to reward the careful listener.

I think it must have been on my fifth trip through Deloused that I suddenly started really loving the polyrhythmic guitar work in 'Eriatarka.' It's become one of my favorite rock albums, even though I started off hating it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:43 PM on April 3, 2005

I've not heard Mars Volta, though I am now interested in doing so and just popped up here to mention Cardiacs as it sounds like the kind of thing Witty might be looking for. Their Sing To God album is probably the greatest record no one's ever heard.

By the way I've loved stuff that sounds like what you're describing for years. As Kindall has noted, it's called Progressive Rock...
posted by Grangousier at 8:17 AM on April 4, 2005

They are stupidly obtuse bullshit. That's the concept. It's for Rush-meets-hardcore wankers.
I can, however, point you in the direction of some really great proggish and free jazz stuff if you prefer.
posted by klangklangston at 8:23 AM on April 4, 2005

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