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Frances The Mute

423 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

If one needed further proof of the contemporary revival/reassessment of the ambitiously overwrought sensibilities once so reviled in '70s rock, this aggressively mindbending second album by the Mars Volta offers it up in spades. Band mainstays Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala insist that labels like "prog" don't interest them, and that this is emphatically not a "sequel" to 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. What it is was thematically inspired by a stranger's diary allegedly found by late bandmate Jeremy Ward, the basis for an expansive, often amorphous musical head-trip that brews psychedelia, trance, hard-rock and free-jazz into a daunting new whole. The dozen tracks here represent but five "songs" proper, though the band's disdain for conventional track banding inspire it to sound more like a stream-of-consciousness soundscape from Can--or a dark, lyrically inventive, if decidedly troubled corner of their ids. On the "Umbilical Syllables" portion of "Cygnus.." and "The Widow" Bixler-Zavala invokes the wailing, Led Zeppelin II & III spirit of Robert Plant set against a feverish, swirling melange that's anything but the blues. The vocalist coaxes "L' Via l'Viaquez" en Espanol, while his band indulges its space-mambo conceits with an evocative spirit that recalls Latin Playboys at their most mischievous. It's an album that loops back on itself in a haunting ellipse--and one whose boundless ambition makes Pink Floyd sound like three-chord bar punters by comparison. --Jerry McCulley

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: A. Sarcophagi/B. Umbilical Syllables/C. Facilis Descenus Averni/D. Con Safo
  2. The Widow
  3. L'Via L'Viaquez
  4. Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: A. Vade Mecum/B. Pour Another Icepick/C. Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma)/D. Con Safo
  5. Cassandra Geminni: A. Tarantism
  6. Cassandra Geminni: B. Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream
  7. Cassandra Geminni: C. Faminepulse
  8. Cassandra Geminni: D. Multiple Spouse Wounds
  9. Untitled
  10. Cassandra Geminni: E. Sarcophagi
  11. Cassandra Geminni: E. Sarcophagi
  12. Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: A. Sarcophagi

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 1, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Strummer Recordings
  • ASIN: B0007GAEW6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (423 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,106 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 89 people found the following review helpful By The Wickerman on March 29, 2005
Format: Audio CD
With their latest release, the Mars Volta have solidified their position as one of the most musically audacious bands in the mainstream today. Continuing in the epic progressive nature of their previous release, "Deloused in the Comatorium", "Frances the Mute" sees the band pushing the boundaries even further, making for a somewhat jarring but undoubtedly engaging listen.

The album begins with "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus", a sprawling 13-minute epic. The song sort of builds up in reverse, firing out of the gate with wild jazzy time changes, eventually melting into spacious guitar melodies, and finally concluding with an odd electronic bit.

From there, the album mainly continues in the multi-part epic fashion, with the exception of the more radio-friendly ballad "The Widow". Much like "Televators", from "Deloused...", this song serves as a brief respite from the musical madness. However, it ends with a long, ambient outro that goes on for a bit too long, and drags the song out a bit more than it really needs to be.

"L'Via L'Viaquez" is perhaps the highlight of the album, boasting a strong Latin influence. The song is filled with scintillating salsa-esque rhythms, adding a catchiness to the wild, technical jazz structures, and features lyrics both in English and Spanish. At 12 minutes in length, the song goes by surprisingly fast.

The remaining two epics, "Miranda, That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" and "Cassandra Gemini", delve even deeper into unpredictable weirdness. Each is spread over several tracks, totaling at around 27 and 20 minutes respectively.

The jazz influence in these songs is taken to even greater extremes, featuring trumpet, flutes, and saxophone (Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea even contributes some nice trumpet work).
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137 of 166 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The Mars Volta hit the jackpot with their debut -- a thrashing, hypnotic, hallucinatory sprawl of prog-rock. People loved it, and many said it was genius. Which, of course, makes the expectations for Album No. 2 even higher -- how can you capture lightning in a bottle more than once?

"Frances the Mute" does a pretty good job of doing just that. Without sacrificing the creepy overtones and wild sound, the Mars Volta opts for a new, stranger sound that is a bit less rock and a bit more prog. "L'Via L'Viaquez" has a sizzling riff that is louder than anything else on the album, while "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" sounds like a metal band going slowly insane.

Not that they've lost their metal/funk/punk/Latin/experimental edge -- some parts of it are just more prominent. Mostly it's the prog and funk... and just try to imagine what that sounds like. Songs like the half-hour "Cassandra Gemini" happily flit from one style to another, with a sense of true rock grandeur, while songs like "Miranda that Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" has an ambient flavor.

Perhaps the one problem is that instead of one sprawling concept album, like their first, this is apparently multiple "acts" put together. A few songs simply putter out, like lackluster "The Widow." But the explosive energy of almost every other song is enough to make up for "The Widow's" flaws.

In a nutshell, you don't know what to expect from the Mars Volta in any given song. They can draw you in with a simple riff or quiet melody, before launching into a screaming, frenetic jumble of Latin-prog-psychedelica-acid-jazz. It's dizzying; the instrumentation is as wild and abstract as their dark, bizarre songwriting.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Wickerlove on March 1, 2005
Format: Audio CD
'Frances The Mute' immediately lays all doubts to rest, that yes, it's possible that the Mars Volta could exceed the grandiosity and pretentiousness of 'Deloused in the Comatorium'. Running at over 80 minutes, there's no denying the sheer ambition of music's most hypersonic duos, Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez. This CD builds upon the template of their debut, and takes it a step further; just more of everything, more blistering guitar solos, more musical scope/experimentation, and generally more monumental. Once again, Cedric's wails and the fierce Page-Karoli-Santana guitar solos of Omar Rodriguez, dominate the album. Certainly Jon Theodore's frenetic Mitch Mitchell-esque drumming style should not be overlooked as well. The 'prog-rock meets classic rock' comparisons have been beaten into the ground, but in fact that would be accurate, going from moody Pink Floyd/Hawkwind sections to self-aggrandizing solos that would make Jimmy Page and Carlos Santana proud. Thrown into the mix are some avant-garde twists, 'Via l'Viaquez' has it's flamenco moments, the 30 minute magnum opus 'Cassandra Geminni' is sprinkled with Ornette Coleman sax-flurrys. It almost seems like the Mars Volta has been blessed with musical speaking-in-tongues, capturing the spirit of a different age unleashed as a musical mosaic, and the most impressive thing is that it works. 'Frances The Mute' is an astonishing album, breathtaking musicanship, progressive in it's spirit, and majestic in it's ambition. Definitley one of the strongest CD's of 2005.
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