Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have to be two of the most prolific creative personalities in modern music. The fact that 'Octahedron' is the fifth studio album in nearly as many years under the Mars Volta banner is impressive in itself, but throw in two live records, one EP, 12 Rodriguez-Lopez solo efforts, and a seemingly endless list of collaborations, guest appearances and production work, and it's little wonder that the pair grew frustrated with the comparitive snail-like pace of former group At The Drive-In.
Sometimes brilliant, often nonsensical, each previous Mars Volta full-length twists and turns through its narrative with a blend of textured musical effects, abstract lyrics and obsessive attention to detail, which is why it's such a surprise that the track chosen to get the ball rolling on 'Octahedron' is a slowburner that takes well over a minute to really get going. 'Since We've Been Wrong' is also one of a handful of TMV titles that requires neither an encyclopedia or a translator to decipher.
In fact, 'Octahedron' is full of surprises. Only this time round, it has nothing to do with the strange and wonderful places the music leads, but rather the places it blindly refuses to go. Of the eight tracks, 'Cotopaxi' is by far the most complex, and the only one to sustain any real energy. A trio of tunes - 'Since We've Been Wrong', 'With Twilight As My Guide' and 'Copernicus' stray even from the traditional band format, comprising mainly of just vocals and guitar. Elsewhere, 'Desperate Graves' and 'Halo of Nembutals' are actually fairly repetitive mid-paced tunes that both start to drag a little towards the end.
It's pretty obvious that the reason for all this restraint is because the band are desperate not to make the same album twice. After four albums, people have begun to build up a picture of what The Mars Volta are about, and 'Octahedron' serves well as a challenge to those expectations. There will be those that struggle to get to grips with the minimalist attitude and it's fair to say that this album doesn't demand attention in the same way that it's predecessors have done, but at the very least, it's a powerful statement about creative expression, and a chance to show that there's more to The Mars Volta than endless guitar noodling and incomprehensible lyrics.
By Rob Dand
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Noize Makes Enemies Review
Posted 30 June 2009 - 12:46 AM
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