By: Eric Greenwood
Despite its post-punk pedigree, it's hard to imagine The Mars Volta sharing many fans with today's typical indie kid. You know the type cuddled up with his Sufjan Stevens records, wearing a nondescript striped sweater, faux frames, and spotty facial hair. That kid hates The Mars Volta and all of its pretentious, prog-rock ambitions.
The Mars Volta appeals more to that guy who defends Faith No More because Mike Patton was in it, declaring Patton's ability to turn scatological humor into experimental nightmares without using anything but his voice exempts him from judgment for his embarrassing rap-funk beginnings. And because he was in Bungle, dude. Yeah, that guy worships The Mars Volta.
If you don't fall into either ridiculously narrow or caricatured camp, that doesn't mean you're out of the loop. It's just one way of demonstrating how polarizing The Mars Volta's music is. Not too many people are on the fence- you either love this stuff or you hate it.
I'll admit to being intrigued to the point of being impressed by the band's debut, the Tremulant EP, and even most of De-Loused in the Comatorium for its pummeling fits of Led Zeppelin progged-out in space. The Santana-style solos were forgivable because they were far outnumbered by hooks and impossibly technical aggression. The same can't be said for Frances The Mute, a sprawling, stream of conscious set of heavy-lidded space rock, world-fusion eccentricity, and jazzy discombobulation.
The band's third full length, Amputechture, continues on a fans-be-damned journey to the center of nonsense, with layers upon layers of harmonized, processed vocals, scaling guitar wankery, and lush, atmospheric passages interrupted by extreme jolts of pistol-fire percussion. Cedric Bixler-Zavala's voice can knock you on your ass just as easily as Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's solos can numb your face.
Musically, it's mind-blowing in both execution and creativity, but it's a masturbatory nightmare to sit through in one listen.