Music News

The Mars Volta

Frances the Mute, the latest opus by former At the Drive-In cohorts Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, arrived at the perfect time; its fresh-and-wild style filled the vacuum left by a dearth of new musical movements. Too bad self-appointed trend monitors are currently working overtime to pigeonhole the group as the flag-bearers of 21st-century art rock. Granted, this view isn't wholly without merit, because the players have a taste for extended solos, and they eschew standard verse-chorus-verse structures in favor of less predictable, more free-flowing compositions. But what's best about the band is how its music refuses to conform to any standards -- even its own. The Voltans are constantly trying to come up with something different from their previous work, and if this contributes to a sort of aural schizophrenia at times, the ailment is preferable to the by-the-numbers approach taken by the vast majority of their hard-rock peers. In a world of round holes, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez aren't square pegs. They're shape-shifters.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts