I was a little skeptical when I first picked up this CD. The Mars Volta is one of those bands that one can easily classify as “all over the place” or “crazy.” They’re a not-so-accessible tour de force of maniacal percussion, guitars, and screaming vocals. They take a long time to appreciate, but eventually, after your brain manages to sift through the layers of complexity of chaos, a beautiful and impressive scenery often emerges that was previously invisible and unrelatable.
This album is far more subdued, hence the skepticism. It’s difficult to call any territory “familiar” to the Mars Volta, but this album surely treads into calmer and more unfamiliar waters than ever before. Sure, it’s a bit more poppy and classically-structured (often with the verse-chorus-verse, etc.)–but man, are these tunes awesome. The opener, “Since We’ve Been Wrong” is laid back, emotional, and gives such an adrenaline rush when the drums finally kick in at the 5-minute mark that you know you’re in for a ride. Teflon kicks in with a radio-friendly up-tempo beat with all around great singing and energy. Halo of Nembuttals is one that slowly grew on me as the time passed–I’d call it one of my favorites now. The melody is one that I first found slightly annoying, yet soon realized I couldn’t get it out of my head–and now I love it.
The next tune, With Twilight As My Guide, introduces how good The Mars Volta is at writing slow songs. The two standouts on the album–this tune and the later Copernicus–are very slow but so full of emotion and build so well that you’ll be playing it on repeat for days. Juxtaposed with the accessible “Desparate Graves” and the album closer Luciforms–this album really holds a pleasing mix of slow, fast, and medium-paced songs. The more I’ve listened, the more each tune continues to impress me.