Sound — 10
Mars Volta never ceases to amaze me with their music. The band is a mix of progressive, rock, jazz, funk, psychadelic, and experimental with a strong latin background. Overall, the band should go under the category of good. The album follows a concept inspired by a diary Jeremy Ward, their sound programmer, found in a touring van. He found many similarities between the writer and himself. Ward died from a drug overdose before work on the album commenced. Omar Alfredo Lopez-Rodriguez, guitarist/writer, wrote the music out of the feelings he had following Ward's death. It defenitely shows. The songs are tighter and more thought-out than De-Loused. Frances The Mute is about a man who searches for his birth mother (named Frances The Mute). He obtains guidance from five people (Vismund Cygnus, A Widower, Lady L'Via, Miranda, and Cassandra Geminni), each of which has a song dedicated to them. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus is a great unofficial intro to the album. The title track was supposed to be the first song but ironically didn't make the album due to the impossibility of a 92 minute disc, but is set for a future release. Cygnus starts with an acoustic and mandolin intro that explodes into a furious Buckethead-like riff not complete without spanish chants and shouts. After the second verse, Cygnus finds it's way into a broken record segway that allows a guitar solo by Omar and a build-up back into the intense chorus. The song ends with a 5/4 groove fadeout and an onslaught of beeps and whistles. Traffic sounds lead right into The Widow which is incorrect as it talks about a man. However, Mars Volta uses words like languished and freckling so screw me. The ballad inludes a Jimmy Page sounding solo and a trumpet solo by Flea (who also is on Miranda). The song ends in a three-minute instrumental part tha sounds like Interstellar Overdrive mixed with the circus. L'Via L'Viaquez starts with a fade-in of drums and explodes (a reoccurring theme) into a John Frusciante solo (who lends another solo on this song) and a latin rock verse. The verse descends into a piano dominated chorus. The song follows a solo-verse-chorus pattern until it ends with the chirping of birds which also starts off Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore. Miranda's intro is comprised off moans and a slide guitar with heavy delay. The song is very eerie and mysterious while layered with trumpets and effects. The same 5/4 groove from Cygnus conludes Miranda when the 30-minute finale, Cassandra Geminni, starts. Cassandra is longer than any of Pink Floyd's epics (Atom Heart Mother and Echoes) which is a very hard task to accomplish. Luckily, for the impatient few who prefer two to three minute pop songs Cassandra is split into eight tracks (not to be confused with eight songs or eight parts). Cassandra is one that the listener can only describe to themselves. This and the rest of the songs will create atmospheres and character depictions in your mind.
Lyrics — 10
Cedric Bixler-Zavala's lyrics and vocals are the best in music today. His falsetto might take time to get used to. But, after that you'll come to love the harmonies he makes and the notes he hits so cleanly. The lyrics are outstanding. You really get a sense of story and hope in this album through the album. What's more is that Bixler-Zavala sounds exactly like Robert Plant, especially in his vocal/guitar trade-offs, the wailing, and the passion.
Overall Impression — 10
Frances, at least in the layout of the songs, is reminiscent to pre-Dark Side/post-Barrett Pink Floyd. The whole album should be listened to in one sitting. The guitar work is comparable to Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, and the odd and easier side of Buckethead. The lyrics are smarter than Ken Jennings and Ben Stein put together. Frances The Mute might turn off listeners that would rather not listen to an album where four songs make it over 12 minutes and the shortest is six minutes. The Mars Volta are made up of musical geniuses and Frances The Mute is just the second album in a line of a great things to come.