The Mars Volta

Frances the Mute (Universal / CSL)

Texas Platters

The Mars Volta

Frances the Mute (Universal/CSL)

The Ramones died for the crimes of Frances the Mute. In breaking from the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath conventions of their still-best debut, 2002's Tremulant EP, the Mars Volta jumps the outer wall of follow-up LP De-Loused in the Comatorium and runs screaming into the electric razor-wire fence surrounding El Paso's asylum for the criminally insane. According to authorities, a visiting A&R executive's suggestion that the band cut a no-frills, full metal jacket 12-track set off the punk progressives' rampage. Melodies were brutally dismembered then ritualistically pieced back together. When played backward, a woman recites "Mr. Roboto" in Spanish. The 77-minute recording of Frances' trebling shrieks, her eardrums reportedly raked down a chalkboard, uncovers in its first 40 minutes two strong Cedric Bixler Zavala-driven directives that drift into incidental cantina music then the sound of crickets having breached the airlock. Inside the last half-hour, somewhere in the constellation of "Cassandra Geminni," a volcanic stew of roiling rhythms and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez's supersonic boogie overrides the orchestrations and free jazz disorienting the rest of the proceedings. The final 15 minutes are the saddest in their promise of what might have been for Frances the Mute, cremated at the glue factory – more digital ash in a digital urn. (The Mars Volta seizes control of a sold-out Austin Music Hall April 25.)


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