The Mars Volta
Octahedron (Warner Bros.)
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., July 24, 2009
The Mars VoltaOctahedron (Warner Bros.)
Since the Mars Volta's magnetic debut EP, 2002's Tremulant, At the Drive-In expat tandem Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala have followed a career trajectory that parallels a round of Tetris: musical shapes of various size and color falling with ever-increasing speed and complexity. Experimental megalomania ensued unchecked until the whole spaceship crashed on last year's The Bedlam in Goliath. Misleadingly billed as an acoustic effort, Octahedron is the El Pasoans' attempt to hit the reset button. "Cotopaxi" and "Desperate Graves" are the Volta's most straightforward carbon-burners since Frances the Mute's "Cygnus ... Vismund Cygnus" yet lack structure and memorable hooks, while the introductory ballad "Since We've Been Wrong" soars closer to the Eagles than Led Zeppelin. Still plenty of spectral wonderment, Octahedron opens with a minute's worth of lunar emissions as aided by guest John Frusciante's Floydian echo-slide guitar ("With Twilight as My Guide"), which ensures that TMV won't touch back down to earth anytime soon. Game over.