9.15.2006

Cruelty is a Rhythm Instrument

I have multiple times in this space recorded my love for The Mars Volta. Cedric's high pitched spirit-piercing vocals, Omar's unique and chaotic guitar riffs and masterful arrangements... and the lyrics... Sweet fuck do they have some trippy lyrics. Each song on each one of their albums has a line that will make you go woah if you are at all susceptable to such urges.

So when their new album came out, of course I listened to it. And I was a bit anxious. See, the standard for judging an artist; perhaps the defining career accomplishment, is to produce three truly Great Albums. According to my friend Steve, the only one to exceed this was Beethoven, who produced nine Great "albums." Seeing as the first compact discs were designed to be able to hold the Ninth and no more, I think it's safe to call it an album.

In any case, I regard Deloused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute as master works. This places high expectations on the third album, though it'd been said in the year between the album's announcement and release that "there's no goddamned way that this one will be as good as the other two." Please note that the exact thing was said about Frances the Mute. Regrettably this time the sentiment proved true, but don't let that dissuade you. If you like The Mars Volta, Amputechture is worth several listens and a slot in your cd shelf/wallet/ipod/hard drive. It's a great (lowercase g now) listen, and it has all of the lyrical brilliance, all of the fantastic instrumentation and arrangement, and all of the trippy use of effects. In fact there's only one thing it lacks, and that's those powerful, gripping vocal parts that hit you like a sledgehammer loaded into a cannon overcharged with a double dose of gunpowder. for instance like

You should have seen
The curse that flew right by you
Page of concrete
Sting walks crutch and hobble sway
Auto de fae
A capillary hint of red
Only this manupod crescent in shape has escaped

or

Exoskeletal juncture at the railroad delay
Exoskeletal juncture at the railroad delay
It's because this is...

from Deloused or

L'Via
Hija de Miranda,
Tu Apellido se cambió
L'Via
Sin ojos me quieres dar
Una historia sin mi madre
Sólo tengo que decirte
El dolor de noche dice
Sólo se quedo el vestido
Le lavé la sangre

or

No there’s no light
In the darkest of your furthest reaches
No there’s no light
In the darkest of your furthest reaches

or

Oh lord
Said I’m, Said I’m, Said I’m
Said I’m bloodshot for sure
Pale runs the ghost
Swollen on the shore

Or all of Cygnius... Vismund Cygnius

from Frances the Mute. Please note these aren't necessarily the most shining examples of lyrical content, and unless you've heard the albums they will mean little to you. They're a sampling and a less than all-encompassing one at that of exceptional vocal moments in the albums. Sadly in Amputechture the only such moment is

Come on and give it to me
Come on and die

In your viscera eyes
Cut the lights
Close the blinds
Lend me your comfort
Control by your sight

Which isn't to say that the rest of the vocals aren't tremendous. They are. This is just the only example of the vocal punch that I'd come to know and love from previous efforts.

The record marks two distinct firsts for Volta. For one, it's the first not to have an overarching plot, though there is a pervasive narrative voice, if that makes any sense. Cedric had this to say in regards to that:

"This album's a commentary about the fear of God instead of the love of God, which goes hand-in-hand with Catholicism...To me, religion is the reason there is so much conflict in this world, and I think it's just so unnecessary to believe in this blue-eyed, white-bearded, white-haired God. Amputechture is my personal way of describing enlightenment, or just the celebration of this person who is a shaman and not a crazy person. It's about the pineal gland and how it has certain elements that mimic a DMT experience, and how we can come up with cures for cancer and AIDS if we're more in tune with what's going on in the rainforest."

Those who know me will know that such a message meets me on favorable terms, and I invite it in for a cup of coffee.

Furthermore, it's the first to feature a rhythm guitar, provided with proficience by John Fruiscante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both were well recieved, and in many ways evoked the better parts of At the Drive In.

As always, electronic effects and horns are used masterfully.

In short, listen to this album. Seriously. I know it's going to be in my rotation of background music for a while. Cedric and Omar haven't solidified themselves as legends but it's early yet and it shouldn't put a damper on a solid and enjoyable album.

9 comments:

  1. I here by pronounce you my official cd reveiwer.

    I bow to you.

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  2. Hear, hear!

    And DAMMIT! I am now curious as hell about them so Loverboy will soon be on the task of downloading away... and then I will have to pack the CD. ;-)

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  3. Wow. I'd heard that Mars Volta fans exsist, but I'd never observed on in the wild. ;)

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  4. I also can't type today. New ergonomic keyboard. Sorry about that.

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  5. okay mr. esoteric, i'm on my way to check it out.

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  6. Okay Wombat, we're showing the world, somehow, how intelligent reviewing is done

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  7. Cooper: I'm honored

    Miz B: I don't believe that you will be disappointed

    Veronica: It's better to observe us under other circumstances

    Jromer: Sweet!

    Pia: {dubbed kung fu voice]Tell me what it is I must do{/voice}

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  8. Three in a row or total? I could agree on principal, but I'd say Steve's assesment is flawed. Mozart? Led Zeppelin? Bob Marley? Michael Jackson? Many have had three or more truly greats, though I'd agree that can be considered a bar for greatness.

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  9. exoskeletal junction... is my second favourite bit of comatorium.

    and when they drag the lake there's nothing left at aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhaahahall.

    If that's actually what they're singing. That's my best bit.

    I've defected. Sweet agony in that.

    I never really got into Frances much though. Laziness.

    Apologies for absence. I tried rearranging the links in My Favourites and looking for something else I just realised about eight of the places I love fell out of my old folder but didn't make it into my new folder. Favourite favourites. My reading's been crap recently.

    So I must catch up, really.

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