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No Ripcord ReviewAs if it wasn't enough with Pitchfork


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#1 Dandelion

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:44 PM

The Mars Volta
Octahedron
Posted Image

The Mars Volta are the most polarizing band of my lifetime. No other group has caused so much mindless devotion and vehement hatred in my quarter century on earth. It is either loved and praised for its mind-bending amalgamation of genres and sounds, or reviled and hated for its self indulgent tendencies passed off as progression. There is no middle ground: everyone falls into one of these two camps.

I, along with anyone else raised on bare bones punk rock, I suspect, fall into the second group of fans who wish that Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez would hurl themselves off a cliff (or wish, at least, that they had stopped with At The Drive-In).

That being said, each Mars Volta album has always been able to spark some interest, generate some small good will. Despite all the dissonance, the gibberish, the swirling, meaningless clouds of noise for noise's sake, the endless bullshit of it all, each album has always had some redeeming quality. Be it fragmented pockets of actual songwriting (Ciatraz ESP, Drunkship of Lanterns off Deloused in the Comatorium), snippets of interesting guitar work (a number of songs off Frances the Mute) or the band just cutting through their progressive title and simply kicking some ass (Goliath off last year's The Bedlam in Goliath), TMV have always been at least marginally interesting, at least to the point that an album would warrant a handful of listens.

And then there was Octahedron, the band's latest album.

It's hard to pin down exactly what is so repulsive about this record. I mean, it sounds fine, which is to say it sounds like every other Mars Volta record: hyper active drums, ethereal guitars, bad high school poetry style lyrics delivered in a goofy falsetto, massive breakdowns of meaningless sound.

What's lacking here is any kind of interest. Octahedron sounds like a band going through the motions, making music out of obligation and not inspiration. Every note, every movement, every single element of every single song comes off as lazy and uninspired. It is as if the band said “Fuck it, this is good enough,” and released the first thing that came to mind. If the guys themselves can't even muster up some excitement, what are we listeners supposed to do?

It's as if the band can't even muster the energy to try and write new songs. Album opener Since We've Been Wrong sounds like a second-rate The Widow. Teflon plays like any track off Amputechture. Some bands write the same song over and over again because its all they know, but TMV have proved themselves talented enough to progress, even within their own brand of shitty “progressive rock.” This is not some pop-punk band using the only three chords they know. This band can do better, has done better. This is laziness.

Maybe I am being closed minded. I've already admitted that I don't like the band. Its possible that I am just totally missing the point, and Octahedron is a masterwork of rock so far above my head all I can do is bad mouth it. Still, every other Mars Volta album has jumped out at me at least once. This album passes by without a single interesting note, without one thing to engage a causal listener, devoid of anything worth going back to.

In a recent interview, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriquez-Lopez talk about a possible At The Drive-In reunion, calling such a thing unlikely given the amount of material they still want to make as The Mars Volta. Octahedron makes that claim extremely hard to believe. This is kind of album bands put out before a break up.

http://www.noripcord...olta/octahedron

#2 ElOscuroMeMantiene

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:48 PM

the observer and the observed are inextricable

#3 Animalitia

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 06:49 PM

Does anybody else remember when critics would review... the album.. and not the band?

Maybe I am being closed minded. I've already admitted that I don't like the band. Its possible that I am just totally missing the point, and Octahedron is a masterwork of rock so far above my head all I can do is bad mouth it.


That was pretty much my impression of this review.

#4 drunkship123

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:01 PM

and once again the ATDI bullshit begins...the whole fake reunion thing pissed alot of fans off i'd say

#5 90adZAP

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 07:13 PM

what a terrible review

#6 u-Bit

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 09:42 PM

The Mars Volta
Octahedron
Posted Image

The Mars Volta are the most polarizing band of my lifetime. No other group has caused so much mindless devotion and vehement hatred in my quarter century on earth. It is either loved and praised for its mind-bending amalgamation of genres and sounds, or reviled and hated for its self indulgent tendencies passed off as progression. There is no middle ground: everyone falls into one of these two camps.

I, along with anyone else raised on bare bones punk rock, I suspect, fall into the second group of fans who wish that Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez would hurl themselves off a cliff (or wish, at least, that they had stopped with At The Drive-In).

That being said, each Mars Volta album has always been able to spark some interest, generate some small good will. Despite all the dissonance, the gibberish, the swirling, meaningless clouds of noise for noise's sake, the endless bullshit of it all, each album has always had some redeeming quality. Be it fragmented pockets of actual songwriting (Ciatraz ESP, Drunkship of Lanterns off Deloused in the Comatorium), snippets of interesting guitar work (a number of songs off Frances the Mute) or the band just cutting through their progressive title and simply kicking some ass (Goliath off last year's The Bedlam in Goliath), TMV have always been at least marginally interesting, at least to the point that an album would warrant a handful of listens.

And then there was Octahedron, the band's latest album.

It's hard to pin down exactly what is so repulsive about this record. I mean, it sounds fine, which is to say it sounds like every other Mars Volta record: hyper active drums, ethereal guitars, bad high school poetry style lyrics delivered in a goofy falsetto, massive breakdowns of meaningless sound.

What's lacking here is any kind of interest. Octahedron sounds like a band going through the motions, making music out of obligation and not inspiration. Every note, every movement, every single element of every single song comes off as lazy and uninspired. It is as if the band said “Fuck it, this is good enough,” and released the first thing that came to mind. If the guys themselves can't even muster up some excitement, what are we listeners supposed to do?

It's as if the band can't even muster the energy to try and write new songs. Album opener Since We've Been Wrong sounds like a second-rate The Widow. Teflon plays like any track off Amputechture. Some bands write the same song over and over again because its all they know, but TMV have proved themselves talented enough to progress, even within their own brand of shitty “progressive rock.” This is not some pop-punk band using the only three chords they know. This band can do better, has done better. This is laziness.

Maybe I am being closed minded. I've already admitted that I don't like the band. Its possible that I am just totally missing the point, and Octahedron is a masterwork of rock so far above my head all I can do is bad mouth it. Still, every other Mars Volta album has jumped out at me at least once. This album passes by without a single interesting note, without one thing to engage a causal listener, devoid of anything worth going back to.

In a recent interview, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriquez-Lopez talk about a possible At The Drive-In reunion, calling such a thing unlikely given the amount of material they still want to make as The Mars Volta. Octahedron makes that claim extremely hard to believe. This is kind of album bands put out before a break up.

http://www.noripcord...olta/octahedron


wow this guy is a seriously ignorant music listener.

1. comparing teflon to amputechture music? sreiouisly? where doy ou get that from?

2. he thinks this is terrible, lazy music, yet listens to barebones punk rock? yeah, let ME write a review about the music this guy listens to.

3. "This album passes by without a single interesting note, without one thing to engage a causal listener, devoid of anything worth going back to." HAHAHAHA this is definitely someone who does not enjoy music for music, and cant appreciate slower songs, harmonies, and DEFINITELY only listened to it once while he surfed the internet and texted his friends.

4. " it sounds like every other Mars Volta record: hyper active drums..." Uh... what? where were the hyperactive drums again? oh yeah, there's hardly any fuckin drum work on this album overall, ESPECIALLY when compared to the previous albums.

i could probably go on forever. terrible review, doesnt even review the actual music much. idoit/

#7 emperorstuff

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 10:28 PM

Poor review & reviewer. The type of person who, when they hear/read Cedric's lyrics thinks to themselves "he's just saying random words, anyone can do that!"

... right.

#8 Mlilly

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Posted 25 June 2009 - 11:57 PM

"meaningless" - is something i'v heard alot in negative interviews... but if you think of music i THAT way then ALL music is meaning less?!.. music is self expression, yeah it's not going to stop world poverty or cure cancer! but how can it be meaningless?!! i's say his job is more meaning less!! it's such a stupid LAZY thing to say about music!!

"Maybe I am being closed minded" yes.. yes you are!!

#9 Lewis T

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:22 AM

Cedric never even definitely said there would be a reunion, so if it has "pissed people off" then those people frankly, suck. Large amounts.

#10 Carnage

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:22 AM

Poor review & reviewer. The type of person who, when they hear/read Cedric's lyrics thinks to themselves "he's just saying random words, anyone can do that!"

... right.


Octa's lyric SUCK compared to...well, every other lyric Ced's written.

Desperate Graves?...come on.

#11 LouisGilbrook

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 12:31 AM

Cedric never even definitely said there would be a reunion, so if it has "pissed people off" then those people frankly, suck. Large amounts.

Exactly, a load of fans just took a couple of words Cedric said in an interview, which were probably taken out of context, and ran with them because they got so excited at the prospect of a reunion. And then the same people get pissed when Omar denies the rumours? Ha.



Oh yeah, and this review is pretty dire, too.

:)

#12 SCVSnare3

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:13 AM

What an idiot.

#13 emperorstuff

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 04:28 AM

Poor review & reviewer. The type of person who, when they hear/read Cedric's lyrics thinks to themselves "he's just saying random words, anyone can do that!"

... right.


Octa's lyric SUCK compared to...well, every other lyric Ced's written.

Desperate Graves?...come on.


To me his lyrics have evolved in tandem with my own life and always resonate in new, special ways. I'm always impressed with what he writes and the way he weaves his words into the music on Octahedron is incredibly skillful and, as a musician, very humbling.

#14 SnkZato1 Ph.D.

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 04:15 PM

I just posted this there, hopefully it comes up as I didn't see it

sorry if this ended up getting posted twice.

It is apparent that the reviewer did not do his homework when reviewing this album, and therefore has created a review that makes little sense. IF he had read even one, single, simple interview (like every other publication I've read regarding this album) he would not this album was designed to be simple, bare bones, and "acoustic" (by The Mars Volta standards). IF the reviewer had known that he would have been able to take this into account and not have criticized the album for not being as "daring" as the other 4 TMV LPs.
With this in mind it already shows Nate had no interest in giving this album a fair review, I don't mind when people who dislike a band give their opinion as well as it creates a pleasant contrast especially when music can be so subjective, but he decided to spearhead this review and it is riddled with his 2 cents rather than an objective piece. I'd had to agree with someone who said it first that Nate just sounds like he got his chance to complain about a band he dislikes, and for what? So he could throw a 1/10 on the album, and for what? So he could feel triumphant at the end of the day that he sure showed them? I am not sure, but it just felt so Pitchforkesque, to lash out on a band he had no interest in.
What makes it worse is that it appears he had hardly listened to the album. From the review it seems he heard Since We've been Wrong, Teflon, and Cotopaxi. I get this from his description of the music "hyper active drums, ethereal guitars, bad high school poetry style lyrics delivered in a goofy falsetto, massive breakdowns of meaningless sound". This album features nearly none of this, except what is obviously an opinionated feeling of Cedric's lyrics, which in itself boggles me as it seems Nate is an At the Drive-in fan and it isn't like his lyrics have changed styles since those days, so way to show your colors! The music itself is very restricted and laid back even Thomas Pridgen, the drummer, who is notorious for going absolutely postal, which has even upset the fans of original drummer Jon Theodore have praised him for being much more reserved this time. The ONLY track I can say that any of his TMV stereotypes fall into is Cotopaxi which again supports my theory of him only hearing a few highlights. Teflon does not sound anything like the songs of Amputechture, and the comment alone confuses me to the point of stupidity, again it just sounds like an agenda.
I won't get into the whole matter of the stigmas and and trends of lo-fi self absorbed acoustic wankery (which is what I call pretentious music, who really needs 100 different people telling the same mellow dramatic story sung in the same boring manner.), but if there is an ever evident air of this being projected it is in this review. Progressive rock should not be condemned for its technicality nor it's bombastic long songs with changing time signatures, why this has become a cool trend I do not know and it is irritating. I'm sure in 5-10 years time the tides will shift again, but for now why Prog rock is being slammed for little to no logical reason will puzzle me. So many great progressive bands paved the way for some of the modern greats. Yes, Rush, Soft Machine, Magma, Camel, etc were all necessary for the birthing of other great genres such as Math Rock and even post-rock and post-hardcore.

I wouldn't mind Nate's review if he was educated on the manner, or at least didn't come off as having a massive chip on his shoulder, which is what I can't help but feel here. I really enjoy TMV, and I respect when people don't for some the music is just too much, and yes I can see that 100% it is generally very intense and does not give itself to being easy listening, but it should not be shunned for that. No, it should be praised for raising the bar on what will be played on the radio, and cranked in concert halls. It is arguable if they have pushed the envelope musically (I say yes!), but it is undeniable that they have raised the bar for the general palette of the average music fan. They have created a standard for generic pop rock to follow, maybe not as insane, but certainly not has boring as 3-string repeats.



#15 emperorstuff

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 05:36 PM

Well said, snkzato1 :)

#16 Haplo

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 09:04 PM

I wrote this in response to the article:

The problem with having to take extreme positions so that you have a real, strong opinion, makes being a critic very difficult. There's the simple fact that you're forced to review the band, so already you're irritated by having to sit through something you don't like. On top of that, you need to illustrate a journalistic bend that takes a narrative, a very common one from Mars Volta detractors, and try to make a cogent argument about why the album is bad.

Unfortunately, this is what makes your review fairly awful. You don't really do your homework, nor does it seem you care to. And when you do, it seems somewhat suspect as to your ability to process it. Ending the review by drawing the narrative of an ATDI reunion being near, so that a bad album exists as Cedric and Omar have stopped caring about TMV, is just terrible speculation. That's not the way this band has ever worked, and if you've followed the press since the albums you've name dropped, you'd figure that they really do have no interest in an ATDI reunion for the foreseeable future (read, five years). So by capping your review with that, you're being pointless inflammatory probably for the fact that the ten dollars you're being paid for the interview is an insufficient sum provided the 50 minutes you had to spend listening to the album.

This short amount of time is illustrated by the fact that you show no real knowledge of the actual sound of the album. Rare is the "hyper-active" drumming (Being fairly sedate on Since We've Been Wrong, and really only present in Cotopaxi and Luciforms) and although the album has been billed in interviews as "acoustically inspired," you really seem to miss any sense of grasping the overall aesthetic of the album, even in a simple meaning of being able to relate it to your gripes. In regards to the drumming, when it does take off, it seems rather tasteful and for people who have detracted the group for their previous album's very fluid and complex drumming, it would seem that even at this rate you'd appreciate the unbelievable toning down of the drums, or even lack thereof, throughout the album.

So, as it stands, reissuing through your magazine's catalogue your regular list of gripes does not exactly translate towards any kind of informative or even critical review. Instead, it looks like based on your criticisms of the band and the album that you simply tried to write the review for Pitchfork, but it got rejected and published in No Ripcord. And being hyperbolically tongue in cheek by suggesting that the album may be too far above your head does little to save you from writing what tantamounts to a hit piece with little substance and no concrete analytical framework as to why the album is bad, beyond "I've always basically hated this band and having to review it from the confines of my scholarly music review job makes my day aesthetically unbearable." So before you accuse a band of having a "mindless devotion" to the group, it would be prudent to actually look further in depth at an album beyond just reiterating your aesthetic differences over a band's sound. Or you know, just remember that if you don't like something you really never have to hear it again.

#17 ldr

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 05:08 AM

Poor review & reviewer. The type of person who, when they hear/read Cedric's lyrics thinks to themselves "he's just saying random words, anyone can do that!"

... right.


Octa's lyric SUCK compared to...well, every other lyric Ced's written.

Desperate Graves?...come on.



LOL.

#18 francesthemute

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 06:57 AM

"This is kind of album bands put out before a break up."



no, this is the album a band puts out before their best one.


#19 thenameless82

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Posted 01 July 2009 - 06:21 PM

Why should this album be a "right-before-breakup" album? Do even specific "right-before-breakup" exist?

Besides, there already is an LP6. Possibly even 7 or 8. So what the hell is this guy babbling about?
Butthurt about the ATDI non-reunion much?




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