A REVIEW OF FRANCES THE MUTE (2005)
"I think I"ve become one of the others." – Cassandra Geminni (track 5)
Frances the Mute is based upon a diary found by former band member Jeremy Ward. The diary is about an adopted man in search of his biological parents, and from the first song to the last, if you can pick this up without reading interviews from Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the lead vocalist of the band, then you are better than I. In the month I have listened to this CD, I have witnessed pure, raw energy and creation that makes Frances an instant classic, and it inspires in spite of this review's title lyric. This CD is nothing like one of the others, and is at times barely like one of The Mars Volta's own creations.
First of all, get it through your head that all music does not have to sound the same – it does not have to follow a mold set by MTV or Clear Channel. Then take a deep breath and bask in the glory of an endless song. A what? Yes, an endless song. Taken from their previous efforts, Frances the Mute does not follow the code of other CDs by other artists. The CD transitions into songs fluidly to keep you tuned in to the experience. At times it does this so well that you will look at your CD players display in thinking the song has changed when it in fact has not. Other times you will look down and find yourself listening to song 8 when the last time you checked you were on song 5. These segues add weight to the longer songs, by keeping your itchy song-switching-finger at bay because you will want to know how the song blends into the next.
Like a deep storyline to a great movie, you'll find yourself wanting to fast-forward to the explosions and car chases, but you know that if you do you will miss the experience. The difference from the last album is that there are far more instrumental sections, and lulls between the action of the vocals and hooks, just like life. This is the essence of Frances the Mute.
"Chrome the fetal mirage." – Cygnus ... Vismund Cygnus (track 1)
The lyrics are sung beautifully and I am probably not alone in making the comparisons to Robert Plant and That Guy From Rush, but require a little tolerance to the bilingual word soup of the actual content. If you like straight forward lyrics that spell the story out, you may not get into the complex imagery Cedric Bixler-Zavala lays out. He uses his voice, however, not only to convey a story and emotion, but as another instrument which is not so common in the monotone, droning lyricists of other more famous rock bands. Get ready for harmony.
Bixler-Zavala uses a mix of Spanish and English lyrics on the 75 plus minutes of music that will have your head spinning, trying to figure out what he's saying, but don't fret, there is a booklet with words that comes with the CD. Instead of trying to sing along you will inevitably stop and listen to the music, and this is no more apparent than on the song L' via L' Viaquez, which is a blend of Cuban flavors that may immediately make you think back to reruns of I Love Lucy's Ricky Ricardo. This is not a sing-along album, however; Frances the Mute was made to be listened to and listened to loud.
"No there's no light, in the darkness of your furthest reach." – Cassandra Geminni (track 5)
I hate to use the word eclectic when describing the music of Frances the Mute, but how else would you categorize the mixture of the jazz, Spanish, electronic, and American influences that find their way into this album? How can I write about the epic instrumentals, the trademark Mars Volta crescendos? If I may categorize Frances the Mute in the same fray as Pink Floyd's albums, I will, only to say that the songs are as inventive and epic to the point that some may find that The Mars Volta may actually be the Pink Floyd of the new age of rock.
At some point, the review must stop. At some point, you just have to stop thinking and just enjoy. Even though I have been praising this album in some respects throughout the entirety of this review, I can only reach so far. It should be said that if you are able to sit through the 75 plus minutes of music, and the lulling, massive interludes that are sure to annoy everyone at some point, Frances the Mute is solid from beginning to end. If the first song doesn"t grab you after the first hook, then you are listening to the wrong CD.
about the author
Adam Barrett works, sleeps, drinks, and he smells like it. Along the way he is struggling in life toward replacing a CD player, stolen from his car, and finishing at least one thing, so he can get on to the next. He also goes to school for something or another.