(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CD Review - The Mars Volta, Octahedron (2009)

No one will ever accuse the Mars Volta of being lighthearted. They've built a catalog of dark, pessimistic, cynical albums. But they've been on my radar for a while because of their strong mix of hard rock and progressive rock. They're also well known for making concept albums.

cracks that mold a tiny bit by not having a cohesive theme. Musically, most of the songs follow a bit of a formula, starting out moody and mellow with elements of Pink Floyd-like psychedelia. But then they pick up into a harder rock or progressive rock approach. It's an uneven road, though, mostly because the lyrics don't connect as well as the music. There are high points like Since We've Been Wrong, which has some nice layered guitar parts and trappings of early King Crimson. Halo of Nembutals starts out mellow, with a Richard Wright keyboard sound that sounds straight off Dark Side of the Moon. It shifts into a busier progressive rock sound. In this case, the lyrics turn ugly and disturbing, for all the sense they make:
The night I begged you to come to me
The limp in your talk and the scent of your bleed

It's still not enough roulette to let you go

You covered your wounds in a bandage of sloth

The deeper the slur that rang from her laugh

And something tells me to keep it together

How could you turn your back on me?
I've summoned the stampede of infidel feet

For all I ever wanted is all you ever flaunted

Deviate by all means in name

Cause we all crawl in quicksand the same
Okay, so the nembutals kicked in. That would explain the depression and the loose coherency.

Cotopaxi continues the obscure lyric assault. The music perches somewhere between Led Zeppelin and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It's frenetic but the lyrics miss the mark. Sometimes, it can be enough to have lyrics the flow phonetically (like a chunk of R.E.M.'s catalog). This didn't click, though.
I've got the weight of half of the world
You better keep on looking for me
I won't come home if you can't come home
Don't stop dragging the lake, don't stop dragging the lake

And up the hill go the last of my crumbs

We'll be lucky if we eat tonight

And up that hill go the last of my crumbs
That's when I'll magnify a hole
Luciforms also channels Pink Floyd at the start, shifting from a stretched out Us and Them into setting a Careful With That Axe, Eugene beat. The band kicks in to shatter that beat into an angular King Crimson chorus.

Sip on a greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice) and enjoy the music, even if the lyrics obfuscate. You can still get the mood.

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