Make no mistake: There's an anti-Mars Volta contingent out there, and its members will rip this disc apart. They'll dismiss its musical variegation as masturbatory overindulgence, its lyrics as lugubrious faux poetry, its ambitious structure as strikingly pretentious -- and in some ways, they'll be correct. Yet such complaints completely miss the point of Frances the Mute. Sure, the album is a mess -- a crazy, entrancing, glorious mess.
When Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala departed from At the Drive In a few years back, they also left behind any lingering preconceptions of what a rock band is supposed to be. As a result, even "The Widow," the closest thing to a standard song here, features keyboard atonalities and synthesized wind. As for "Cassandra Gemini," it includes lines like "His orifice icicles hemorrhaged by combing her torso," which look harebrained in print but actually work in the context of the group's sound, a figurative maelstrom of prog, free jazz, metal, funk, Latin rock and lots more.
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Excessive? Definitely. But in this case, too much is just the right amount.