Day 341 – #218. The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute

The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute Album Review

Last night, I attended NPR’s annual holiday party. I’ve not ever been with a company to experience such an event, mostly because my employers the last 10 years have been doing it wrong. Actually, I take that back. GameStop took me out to Applebee’s once. No, that’s not a joke.

But yesterday, in preparation for the evening, it occurred to me how quickly this experience has flown by. Same goes for One Record Per Day. I’m 341 days into a 365-day project, and it too has gotten away from me in what has seemed like a heartbeat. I don’t even comprehend the concept of time itself anymore. We’re all living in a vast void of made-up numbers dictating our lives and it never ends.

Sorry. The snow has me recessing into existential crisis mode.

Not sure if I buy into numerology – jury’s still out on science on the whole – but the number 218 is my birthday (February 18th), and therefore it means way more to me than it does to anyone else, except Vanna White and John Travolta. I guess that’s where I get my excellent acting ability, botoxed forehead, and insane letter turning skills.
This year’s list has The Mars Volta’s third album, Amputechture, at number 218.

And while it doesn’t – and, let’s be real, won’t ever – stack up to their debut De-Loused in the Comatorium, it’s still a great record that is flawed – and ultimately foreshadows both the band’s demise and decline in release quality.

Howeva: I goofed! I ended up writing about Amputechture much earlier than I should have. Somehow, I managed to write a list of 76 things you could do in 76 minutes, the full length of the record. I do not know or remember why I did that. I do remember going out after that with friends and listening to Kevin Devine in my car for a long time. I think that was also the period in which I was still suffering pretty bad from a recent breakup, so I’ve kind of browned out that whole period.

Anyway, Frances the Mute is the album I should have written about that night, but did not. Now, some 274 days later, here we are. Yay for you.

Look, nothing will ever top De-Loused. There’s no two ways about that. If you’ve heard that record, you know what I’m talking about. Following up greatness, perfection, even, will either lead to the sophomore slump or a solid outing, or, rarely, one that equals or exceeds its predecessor.

Frances fits snug into the mold of a solid outing, with some of the group’s most memorable moments, and if I’m not mistaken, their biggest single yet, too (“The Widow”).

The biggest takeaway from this record is the group’s aberrant desire for you not to listen to it. Its 5 songs clock in at 77 minutes, with the final two split into multiple acts/stanzas. It’s the proverbial “fuck you” to their fans, downright daring them to listen to, and get through all of it.

This might come off as haughty or pretentious, but the fact of the matter is, their shrug-off ineffectuality, their sheer indifference to whether or not Frances is an easily accessible album is reason enough to listen to, and subsequently enjoy the hell out of it.

Also, the story of its creation and development is perfect. From the Wiki: “Jeremy Ward, audio artist for The Mars Volta until his death, had previously worked as a repo man. One day, Ward discovered a diary in the backseat of a car he was repossessing, and began to note the similarities between his life and that of the author — most notably, that they had both been adopted. The diary told of the author’s search for his biological parents, with the way being pointed by a collection of people, their names being the basis for each named track of Frances the Mute.”

Boss record.

From Frances the Mute, this is “L’Via L’Viaquez” –

Standout tracks: “Cygnus…. Vismund Cygnus” and “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore: B. Pour Another Icepick”
Weakest track: You know, for as much love as “The Widow” receives… just couldn’t ever get into it. “Cassandra Gemini: B. Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream” drags a bit too.

RIYL: Prog rock or lists.

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/frances-the-mute/id47127069

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