Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Mars Volta - De-Loused In The Comatorium (2003)

The Mars Volta: currently wearing the helm of Prog Band Extraordinaire. Well, not quite. As those who know me in life have heard me gripe, the Mars Volta think they are better than they actually are, and have the pretensions of grandiosity of a great prog band, but sound more like they try to advertise themselves as a prog band rather than just be one. As first evidenced here, their freshman effort, De-Loused In The Comatorium, is a fable in artificiality.

The album begins strongly enough with "Son Et Lumiere" -- a nice opener if any into what is arguably the album's finest track, "Inertiatic ESP," a wicked number with shifting time signatures, dissonant guitar phrasings and all kinds of other things goin' on, man. Unfortunately, it ends with what I call "drugscapes" -- music otherwise horrible to even the most progressive of music listeners but that only drug addicts can appreciate (or the band members themselves). Drugscapes contain nothing of intrinsic musical value and are nothing more than flavoring particles in a sentence; like the German doch, they add nothing but pretense and pomp. (More on this later.) "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)" is a good song, but I worry sometimes that Cedric's wailings resemble modern-day emo angst; and this perplexes me, mostly for the need for reliance on such childish expressionist emotion. "Drunkship Of Lanterns" is yet another centerpiece of quality on the album and I always dig this one.

Otherwise, let me return to the most horrendous use of drugscapes during the most pivotal track on the album, "Cicatriz ESP." All the makings of a great epic song exist, but the band apparently prefers the proverbial l'art pour l'art sentiment here, as it inserts a meaningless and seemingly endless four-or-so-minute drugscape that utterly annihilates the glorious momentum the song had held hitherto -- which is precisely the difference between good prog and bad prog: no meaningless dawdling. In the very least, a poseur prog band must realize that its much more intelligent listeners can recognize the difference between weak jams and random space effects as meaningless dawdling. Alas. "Eriatarka," "Televators" and "Tira Me A Las Arenas" are weak. Unfortunately, these fellows greatly improve upon their strengths for their next album, Frances The Mute, but stupidly ignore their weaknesses. For now, though, let's stick with one subject. B


bob_vinyl said...

I've found that the Mars Volta improve with each record. While I was floored when Deloused came out, it now pales in comparison to Amputecture, which I seem to love on my own. The first time I listened to it, I heard hints of Ornette Coleman (without being overbearing, at least for a prog band). Plus, they bring the energy of hardcore and I can't think of another band that can do that.

The Mad Hatter said...

Really? I thought they took a step backward with Amputechture, although "Day Of The Baphomets" is one of the sickest things I've heard in quite awhile. Their energy is infectious -- I'll give you that, but those extended "drugscapes" kill me. I've never heard of Ornette Coleman; I'm going to have to give him a listen.