Frances The Mute review by The Mars Volta

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  • Released: Mar 1, 2005
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (151 votes)
The Mars Volta: Frances The Mute

Sound — 9
The Mars Volta started out as At The Drive-In leavers, Cedric and Omar. They were bored of the same old music that ATD-I were churning out and so left to pursue better things. When they brought out the Tremulant EP people didn't really know what to expect, and when people actually heard it, they were blown away. This was so different. It was so experimental, and people loved it. They then proceeded to release De-Loused In The Comatorium, an LP consisting of ten songs, telling the story of a friend who commited suicide after being in a drug-induced coma. This was totally different from ATD-I and surprisingly, the tremulant EP. This was brilliant. Cedrics ultra high yet almost angelic voice was finally being used properly as opposed to anything ATD-I had ever done, and Omar could have been described as the next Jimi Hendrix. They also got the help of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea to do the tracks from the album. It left lots of room for improvisation and with guitarist Omar Rodriguez and producing megaforce Rick Rubin behind the production process, things couldn't go wrong. They had really paved the way to becoming a force to be reckoned with. Mixing ambience and music to create a "movie in music" worked really well and the critics went wild, and so did I... On the next endeavour titled Frances The Mute, it was different again. Still mixing ambience and music, this time they were telling the story of a diary late bandmate Jeremy Ward found while working as a repo man and started reading. He found he could relate to it all, as it was about a man searching for his birth mother and going to people for help. He had just finished it when he died of a drug overdose in 2003. TMV proceeded to make this record sober, a big step for them as they had made every other album when they were high as kites! They took characters from the diary and put them in the album (Cygnus being the person trying to find his birth mother, Frances The Mute, and going to different people for advice such as the Widow, Lady L'Via (daughter of Miranda, whom he also went to for advice) and Cassandra Gemini. This album was heading more towards a Spanish rock feel, with heavy Latin American influences. Once again they seeked the help of Flea, who provided trumpets on The Widow and (I think) Miranda That Ghost Just Ain't Holy Anymore, and they also recruited John Frusciante to do some guitar work on L'Via L'Viaquez. This is one spectacular album, and with the thirty minute long monster of a song Cassandra Gemini, this album is definetely a cut above De-Loused, and already they have shown themselves more mature. 01. Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus - starts off with Sarchophagi, an awesome accoustic guitar riff with some soft vocals from Cedric, then it explodes into a massive riff and solo, this continues through the song, apart from the middle where it goes quiet for a three minute solo from Omar. Brilliance. 02. The Widow - it says it is five minutes long, but actually it is more like two and a half with another two and a half of ambience, however great song that starts off quietly and accoustically then bursts into an epic chorus. Also Flea is on trumpets, which really adds to the song. However, it pales compared to some of the songs on the album. 03. L'Via L'Viaquez - starts off with a looping drum beat for about 40 seconds, then bursts into a solo provided by RHCP guitarist John Frusciante. Very funky tune. 04. Mtgjaha - this song took me a while to get into, but once I did I couldn't stop listening to it. It starts off with about four minutes of croaking frogs, then the trumpets come in (I think they are provided by Flea) and they are awesome. Then come Cedric's ultra high vocals which sound like he has just had a large kick to the groin, but they still sound great. About 4 minutes of music, then another four minutes of noise, but it ends on the funky end riff from Cygnus. One of my favourites. 05. Cassandra Gemini - now if this song was a man it would be Pavaroti. An absolute monster! It was meant to be one song, but they split it up into seven tracks to make the album an LP, as if they did not, even for the albums 77 minute length it would still be classified as an EP. Starts off with lots of random guitar and distorted vocals, then later on kinda descends into a jam session which is cool, but it would have been better live and not on an album. But it still rocks the socks to the max. Also ends on the opening of Cygnus, stating that Cygnus was better off where he started. Awesome song. Despite all the praise I gave it, however, I would not recommend this to people just getting into Volta. For FTM Rick Rubin wasn't there to keep Omar in check and I think he went a little overboard with the ambience this time round. It is an amazing album, don't get me wrong, I just found that De-Loused was a much more accessable album. But still, this is one of my favourite albums of all time.

Lyrics — 10
As always, Cedric leaves the vocals open for interperatation, leaving you to fill in the blanks. Even though there is a story, they made it so that people can get their own meaning from the lyrics. "The Seeds Sprout A Lachrymal Cloud" in Sarcophagi, I thought were just really gripping lyrics. And also, Cedric's voice has definetely matured from Deloused, you can tell from the first few words that his voice has improved, and it is much more intelligable than it was in ATD-I. Gets incredibly high in parts, but if anything this makes them more unique. Brilliant.

Overall Impression — 9
As I said, this is one of my favourite albums of all time. Great guitar, great vocals, great lyrics, it is just so different to anything out there right now, it gives prog rock a whole new name. As I said, not suitable for people just getting into the Mars Volta due to a, well, basically a lack of music compared to De-Loused. If you are going to buy you're first TMV album then pick up DLITC first, get used to that, then pick up this as you will be in for a real treat. One of the best albums of all time.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This album is not just a collection of musical progression. It is a artwork of creation that our day hasnt seen and wont see for a while. TMV create their own genre in creating this album consisting of high note, twisted vocals from Cedric Bixler, and riveting, brain draining guitar runs and solos from Omar Rodriguez. With collaborations with members of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, this group has definitly put themselves in with a good crowd. This is truly one of the great albums of time whether it gets the credit it deserves or not. (And the same could be said about TMV's first albume, De-loused in the Commatorium)
    This is a great album & so is De-loused in the Commatorium. There is 15 min song called Frances the Mute which isn't on the album but it is a awesome song, even though it doesn't start until 4:30 into the track. Definetely check this out & the De-loused in the Commatorium.
    Mother Superior
    Frances the Mute is actually my favorite song by them. You can hear it on a vinyl recording they put out by the same name. Its also got a live version of The Widow on the b side.
    thats cause they aren't... Frances the Mute (song) is not set for future release, for cd anyway. You can find bootlegs of the song but the only official way to own the song is to buy the vinyl single, it comes with Frances the mute (song) on one side, and an acoustic version of the widow on the other. great purchase. note: there is still speculation over who did the writing for frances the mute, interviews and the like say it was all Omar's idea, while the cd credits Cedric. Omar is the true mastermind behind the mars volta though.