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Pitchfork Review6.0


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#1 juhmp

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 05:54 AM

Look, here's the deal: If you don't know what you're getting into with a new Mars Volta record at this point, after seven years and five albums (plus one EP and a live thing or two), then my advice is to go directly to full-length numero uno, 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. Sample its rhythmic-centric, post-emo art-rock, and decide if you need to continue through the band's catalog. It only gets less user-friendly from there.

Because (speaking to the first-time listeners) "rhythm-centric" here doesn't mean anything remotely funky. It means the frantic, percussion-heavy, multiple-tempo-shifts-per-song brand of complexity inaugurated by batshit 70s-era theatrical hard rock. Also, the band's allegiance to jazz-fusion titans, ones not averse to fuzz and a low-end, means things get far...looser from album number two onward. Arena-grade heavy metal thunder abruptly melts into a groovily aimless journey for congas and electric organ. Repeatedly. Immodestly virtuosic and never afraid to run with a jam, the Mars Volta's ability to alienate newcomers is well-documented. Which means this review is probably for those not already-- or instantly, after their first listen-- alienated.

Is Octahedron the band's best album? No, but if you dig on MV's unrepentantly "big" and meandering suite-driven concept-album thing, you won't necessarily be disappointed. And with songs that only once stray past the eight-minute mark, it's the most accessible MV album since the first. Slower, with fewer breakdowns or out-of-nowhere segues into a wholly new song, it's kind of a Cliffs Notes of everything the band does well, ditching much of the attention-straining stuff. For instance, the hallucinogen-friendly stretches, where glassily effected guitars ping and peal at lava-lamp tempo, have been pruned. (Okay, with a few exceptions.) Even the longest songs stick to something like a coherent mood and linear structure.

Sometimes they even straight-up rock. "Cotopaxi" is perhaps the tersest, most jagged song Omar Rodriguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have cut since At the Drive-In imploded, a boogie riff nodding to their Texan origins, violently cut up and reassembled with virtuoso care. "Desperate Graves" actually builds, rather than dropping a big loud bomb after a placid bit of introductory strumming, and comes with the closest thing the band's written to an instantly memorable chorus in quite a while. Even the breakdown is short and to the point.

This being the Mars Volta, however, it wouldn't do for the album to be entirely curveball-free. For instance, Autechre-style electronic hisses and bristling beats bubble up in the latter half off "Copernicus", mostly without getting all show-offy about it. There's also the general slow and steady downtempo-- or plain downer-- feel to many of the songs. For a band so often pilloried for being too agitated to ride out a good riff, it's probably the closest the Mars Volta will ever come to a cop for the slow jam kids. And it's hard to deny that, depending on your taste for jamming, if you've ever dug on acid-spitting wank-solos over endless, thunderous drum rolls, the final minutes of album closer "Luciforms" is pretty much the shit from a shameless climax standpoint.

As for Rodriguez-López' lyrics, well, sure, they still often verge on the eye-rolling if you're not going to meet him halfway. I'm not going to pretend that a line like, "My devil makes me dream/ Like no other mortal dreams" comes off to me as anything but camp/kitsch. And "don't stop dragging the lake" (from "Cotopaxi") isn't really an earworm as far as hooks go. Now I don't mean to dismiss the words' possible import. It's been clear from album one that the lyrics have a deep resonance for the band, and are meant as clues for the kind of fanbase who enjoys treating records as narratives with big gaps waiting to be filled with a little online research/interview legwork/guesswork. While I'm so not that guy, I will just say the melodrama-rich, scrambled poetry-notebook puzzle pieces do "work" in the context of the album's overall sound. So does the Hammer horror flick sound of Rodriguez-López's tortured-castrato vocals. When his full-tilt shriek joins the band at a moment of total commotion, you can easily imagine the planetarium-scale mock grandeur of it all.

The Mars Volta feeds some very specific needs in its fanbase. There's a certain kind of listener that, maybe once a year or maybe every day, wants music that sates the same impulse that makes people gorge on spectacle-scale cinema or devour the entire Dune series in a few weeks. The Mars Volta's specific brand of bombast may remain an untranslatable language for those rooted in a DIY-scaled world, or committed to the shiny three-minutes-and-change tidiness of the charts. But if you're fiending for the musical equivalent of an epic, partially incoherent battle between good and evil in IMAX 3D, you could do a lot worse.

— Jess Harvell, June 30, 2009

#2 Ramses

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:10 AM

ha
pretty good review

#3 Rob_Floyd

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:15 AM

"As for Rodriguez-López' lyrics"

"So does the Hammer horror flick sound of Rodriguez-López's tortured-castrato vocals."



This guy knows his shit.

#4 stretts

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:22 AM

rofl

#5 Stroma

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:59 AM

By Pitchfork standards this is actually a pretty good/fair review (even though the author confused the names). I'm not sure if it's someone new reviewing the band's album.

#6 noslamdancing

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 08:03 AM

actually i think the person that wrote it is a girl. he/she has an recognizably annoying voice that reads like a fat high school band chick. everytime i read a pitchfork review i can tell within the first sentence or two that it's jess harvel and it is very frustrating.

#7 thenameless82

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 10:07 AM

It's really lovely how this Jess person opens the review by showing off how much TMV-knowledge they've got, only to forget who's the singer and who's the guitarist halfway through. Way to research your stuff / stay focused on your job.
Further proof of the author's need for Methylphenidate: "ditching much of the attention-straining stuff". Honestly, not all good music is comprised of 3-minute songs with predictable "verse-bridge-chorus, verse-bridge-chorus, solo, chorus chorus chorus ad nauseam" structure. I might be wrong but I remember Omar clearly stating that the jams are sort of "scripted", so even the most chaotic TMV track is actually carefully studied. Work on your attention span and you'll see it all falls into place at some point.
As much as I love Octahedron, I sometimes wish Cedric would shut the hell up and leave room for some batshit crazy 8-minute chimes solo or something. But that's just me.

#8 tohereknowswhen.

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 10:09 AM

So what? Omar puts his name on everything every chance he gets, it's no surprise that people make that mistake sometimes. This is a pretty good, fair review. At least they didn't do the whole LOL LONG WORDS AND GUITAR SOLOS review.

#9 Haplo

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 01:20 PM

6.0, MOTHERFUCKERS.

http://pitchfork.com...308-octahedron/

#10 cragget

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 01:39 PM

Review isn't too bad...

#11 stretts

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 01:44 PM

hows perth craig?

better than all the other reviews theyve gotten

#12 cm1682

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 01:53 PM

6.0, MOTHERFUCKERS.

http://pitchfork.com...308-octahedron/



and for those that can't read tiny font or can't be arsed clicking the link:

Look, here's the deal: If you don't know what you're getting into with a new Mars Volta record at this point, after seven years and five albums (plus one EP and a live thing or two), then my advice is to go directly to full-length numero uno, 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. Sample its rhythmic-centric, post-emo art-rock, and decide if you need to continue through the band's catalog. It only gets less user-friendly from there.

Because (speaking to the first-time listeners) "rhythm-centric" here doesn't mean anything remotely funky. It means the frantic, percussion-heavy, multiple-tempo-shifts-per-song brand of complexity inaugurated by batshit 70s-era theatrical hard rock. Also, the band's allegiance to jazz-fusion titans, ones not averse to fuzz and a low-end, means things get far...looser from album number two onward. Arena-grade heavy metal thunder abruptly melts into a groovily aimless journey for congas and electric organ. Repeatedly. Immodestly virtuosic and never afraid to run with a jam, the Mars Volta's ability to alienate newcomers is well-documented. Which means this review is probably for those not already-- or instantly, after their first listen-- alienated.

Is Octahedron the band's best album? No, but if you dig on MV's unrepentantly "big" and meandering suite-driven concept-album thing, you won't necessarily be disappointed. And with songs that only once stray past the eight-minute mark, it's the most accessible MV album since the first. Slower, with fewer breakdowns or out-of-nowhere segues into a wholly new song, it's kind of a Cliffs Notes of everything the band does well, ditching much of the attention-straining stuff. For instance, the hallucinogen-friendly stretches, where glassily effected guitars ping and peal at lava-lamp tempo, have been pruned. (Okay, with a few exceptions.) Even the longest songs stick to something like a coherent mood and linear structure.

Sometimes they even straight-up rock. "Cotopaxi" is perhaps the tersest, most jagged song Omar Rodriguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have cut since At the Drive-In imploded, a boogie riff nodding to their Texan origins, violently cut up and reassembled with virtuoso care. "Desperate Graves" actually builds, rather than dropping a big loud bomb after a placid bit of introductory strumming, and comes with the closest thing the band's written to an instantly memorable chorus in quite a while. Even the breakdown is short and to the point.

This being the Mars Volta, however, it wouldn't do for the album to be entirely curveball-free. For instance, Autechre-style electronic hisses and bristling beats bubble up in the latter half off "Copernicus", mostly without getting all show-offy about it. There's also the general slow and steady downtempo-- or plain downer-- feel to many of the songs. For a band so often pilloried for being too agitated to ride out a good riff, it's probably the closest the Mars Volta will ever come to a cop for the slow jam kids. And it's hard to deny that, depending on your taste for jamming, if you've ever dug on acid-spitting wank-solos over endless, thunderous drum rolls, the final minutes of album closer "Luciforms" is pretty much the shit from a shameless climax standpoint.

As for Bixler-Zavala's lyrics, well, sure, they still often verge on the eye-rolling if you're not going to meet him halfway. I'm not going to pretend that a line like, "My devil makes me dream/ Like no other mortal dreams" comes off to me as anything but camp/kitsch. And "don't stop dragging the lake" (from "Cotopaxi") isn't really an earworm as far as hooks go. Now I don't mean to dismiss the words' possible import. It's been clear from album one that the lyrics have a deep resonance for the band, and are meant as clues for the kind of fanbase who enjoys treating records as narratives with big gaps waiting to be filled with a little online research/interview legwork/guesswork. While I'm so not that guy, I will just say the melodrama-rich, scrambled poetry-notebook puzzle pieces do "work" in the context of the album's overall sound. So does the horror flick sound of Bixler-Zavala's vocals. When his full-tilt shriek joins the band at a moment of total commotion, you can imagine the planetarium-scale mock grandeur of it all.

The Mars Volta feeds some very specific needs in its fanbase. There's a certain kind of listener that, maybe once a year or maybe every day, wants music that sates the same impulse that makes people gorge on spectacle-scale cinema or devour the entire Dune series in a few weeks. The Mars Volta's specific brand of bombast may remain an untranslatable language for those rooted in a DIY-scaled world, or committed to the shiny three-minutes-and-change tidiness of the charts. But if you're fiending for the musical equivalent of an epic, partially incoherent battle between good and evil in IMAX 3D, you could do a lot worse.

Jess Harvell, June 30, 2009



#13 Lassie

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 02:41 PM

Arguably their worst album and it receives their best Pitchfork-review yet.

I am living in Bizarro-world!

#14 cm1682

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 03:00 PM

Arguably their worst album and it receives their best Pitchfork-review yet.

I am living in Bizarro-world!



Not at all...

Their best albums got shitty reviews...

At least Bitchdork stay true to form...

:death:

#15 emperorstuff

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 03:17 PM

Good review. I like the analogy at the end, pretty spot on imo.

#16 Tolland Drummer

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 03:17 PM

Pretty good review. Don't necessarily agree with the rating, but at least I could understand what the reviewer was trying to say.

#17 itsgonrain

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 03:41 PM

By Pitchfork standards this is actually a pretty good/fair review (even though the author confused the names). I'm not sure if it's someone new reviewing the band's album.


This, all the things they complained about from their previous work they changed in some manner, and this is the highest score TMV has received from Pitchfork, ever, and triple what they gave FTM..

#18 DespoticSavior

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 04:12 PM

Oh god...I actually agree with this review.

Tremulant
Me: 5.0
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 7.0

Deloused.
Me: 6.0
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 4.9

Frances The Mute.
Me (Adding FTM song): 8.5
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 2.0

Amputechture.
Me: 8.9
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 3.5

The Bedlam in Goliath.
Me: 6.4
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 4.3

Octahedron.
Me: 6.0
RichWhiteLiberalDork: 6.0

This paragraph sums up The Mars Volta and its fanbase quite nicely.

The Mars Volta feeds some very specific needs in its fanbase. There's a certain kind of listener that, maybe once a year or maybe every day, wants music that sates the same impulse that makes people gorge on spectacle-scale cinema or devour the entire Dune series in a few weeks. The Mars Volta's specific brand of bombast may remain an untranslatable language for those rooted in a DIY-scaled world, or committed to the shiny three-minutes-and-change tidiness of the charts. But if you're fiending for the musical equivalent of an epic, partially incoherent battle between good and evil in IMAX 3D, you could do a lot worse.



#19 DespoticSavior

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 04:27 PM

"As for Rodriguez-López' lyrics"

"So does the Hammer horror flick sound of Rodriguez-López's tortured-castrato vocals."



This guy knows his shit.



lol. I didn't catch that. I knew you were being sarcastic but I had to reread the sentence a couple of times to see why. Can somebody email these mugleheads and tell them to correct it?

I think pitchfork has finally caught on to the fact that Mars Volta is one of those indie-mainstream bands that they just cannot break. I've met people who didn't like TMV based on the pitchfork reviews alone. Despite RichWhiteLiberalDork's endless barage of negative attention (from disparaging TMV albums to even pissing on their cover art) the Volta remain successful.

#20 ----

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:01 PM

Uhh... bombast, grandeur, and arena keep coming up.

You keep on using those words.
I don't think they mean what you think they mean.

TMV =/= Queen/ Journey/ Boston




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