The Mars Volta: Amputechture

Melody-avoiding, free jazz-leaning ‘difficult’ third album

Have The Mars Volta gone all comprehensible? Great shakes are being made of the fact that after one imaginary sci-fi adventure (‘De-Loused In The Comatorium’) and one musical reimagining of a diary that their friend found in the back of a taxi once (‘Frances The Mute’), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have made an album “without a single unifying narrative”. Gone, too, are the daft made-up languages. With Muse making prog that even girls and children can enjoy, you really begin to think we’re approaching an oxymoronic age of bite-sized space-rock. That is, until you actually hear the thing. It’s like plea bargaining: “So, we’ve surrendered the chance to write a big story to placate those fuckers,

now we’re going to make sure the songs are even more convoluted than ever

before! Suckers!”

‘Amputechture’ has eight songs, some of which clock in at less than 10 minutes, and sees them ditch their trademark goth Mexicana and take prog back to its most classic source, ’70s Pink Floyd, gone a bit mariachi and really really long and really really slow. Its centrepiece is called ‘Meccamputechture’, which sounds like all their best bits thus far, only a bit stoned, but it’s not until the pounding sequence in ‘Viscera Eyes’ that we get anywhere close to a hook. Sure, it’s brave, but there are bits of ‘Amputechture’ that sail perilously away from good honest prog into the realms of free jazz. Nothing good ever came of free jazz, and while they might be having fun in their own timestreams, for the rest of us, the days of At The Drive-In are feeling like a long time ago.

Dan Martin

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