Product Code: 4250795605218
Artist: Mars Volta The
Origin: Worldwide
Label: Clouds Hill (2022)
Format: LP
Availability: In Stock
Cover: M
Record: M
Genre: Alternative Rock , Prog Rock , Psychedelic Rock , Rock N

The Mars Volta

Brand new album from The Mars Volta.

From the very beginning, the stadium-sized, major-label version of the Mars Volta never made any sense. The duo spent its first 10 years defined by an emotive improvisational style that was both technically proficient and utterly chaotic, a self-described “free-jazz entropy” that felt wholly out of place on alternative rock radio, never mind MTV and the Billboard charts. Bandleader Omar Rodríguez-López admitted as much while promoting their third album, Amputechture, in 2006: “We expected the band, from the beginning, to fail.”

But it’s that dissonance and artful madness that drew people to them, colored in no small part by a bewilderment that music like this had even escaped the underground at the turn of the century. Between the Mars Volta’s formation in 2001 and their breakup in 2012, Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala made music propped up by tension and intense pressure, waging sonic battles that they didn’t always win. But even after dissolving the band, they were never far apart, playing on each other’s solo projects, reuniting their previous band, At the Drive-In, and forming yet another one, Antemasque. Their new self-titled album is their first as the Mars Volta in 10 years: Recorded in secret to evade the watchful eye of a vengeful cult, it is a look toward the future from artists seeking to shed the burden of their past.

From the first notes, it’s clear the Mars Volta have mellowed out. The Latin percussion that once propelled their compositions toward the brink is now softened with a light funkiness, creating a sort of airy, Caribbean yacht rock. Tempos have slowed, tracks are much shorter (only two extend past four minutes), and the absence of tension offers a clarity often missing from their early work. The music is pleasant and inviting, punctuated by subtle flourishes rather than violent attacks. The relatively standard pop structures lift the veil created by their more characteristic wonky time signatures and lyrical abstractions; this is as vulnerable as they’ve ever been together.

Yet the same clarity that makes The Mars Volta the band’s most “accessible” record to date also reveals a darkness to Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics that hasn’t always been easy to decipher. It’s not the first time that Bixler-Zavala has sung in Spanish, but it does feel like the first time he actually wants us to understand what he has to say. Even at the band’s high-water mark, when he was writing about a friend’s overdose, subsequent coma, and eventual suicide, Bixler-Zavala’s impressionistic language served as a barrier between himself and the listener; you might have felt the pain and torment, but deciphering the narrative was difficult. His lyrics here are both direct and autobiographical, fueled by the seething rage that can only come from the pain of seeing someone you love suffer. “And if you want, I can bury him out by the Salton Sea in an empty grave,” he sings on “Vigil.” “The past has a way of coming clean.”