The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
Oct 21, 2021
Listening to this along with "De-Loused" on the same night was a fucking experience.

"Frances the Mute" is a pitch-perfect follow-up to an already amazing debut, taking all the highlights of its predecessor and building upon each and every one of them! The playing is even more technical, the production is chockfull of great sound manipulation, the songwriting is immaculate and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's vocal performances have STEPPED THE FUCK UP!!! His vocal range was already fantastic on "De-Loused", but Cedric takes it to the next level with screaming highs, up to the high 6's! The concept is also pretty entertaining, centering on a murderous man in search for his mother and uncovering the mystery of her disappearance. Named after the titular character the story was based off of, "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus" is an amazing opener that almost immediately hitting you with its chaotic rhythms and time signature changes! Not to mention that eargasmic chorus and the interlude passage at the end should've dragged the album but, like many others in the tracklist, it makes this 76-minute record flow so damn well!

"The Widow" is by far the most accessible on the album but it never lets up in its scope! The entire verse and chorus vocal melody is super sticky and the vocal performances are super emotive and passionate! Then it transitions smoothly into John Frusciante's face-punchingly dexterous guitar-noodling on "L'via L'Viaquez"! TMV has incorporated their Latin roots in the past, but it's especially prominent here! The grooves are infectious and I love how he sings in Spanish during the rock section, but also sings in English in the salsa section where you'd think the Spanish singing would usually be. Both sections make me dance and chachacha at the same time and... UGH this album has just been so goddamn amazing so far! "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" is a great cooldown that starts with this eerie drone section before Cedric comes in with some of his most emotive performances yet!

And then there's "Cassandra Gemini"... oh my gosh this track. This would usually be the case where I would just type "the x-minute epic that is [title]" but this track made me give birth to Gandalf the Grey. Not the baby, but the whole human man. It's a shame that this man came out of the womb(?) so old cuz this ferocious, 32-minute colossus of a song would probably outlive him! The band goes all out here, from Cedric's chilling and dynamic vocal performances to Omar's guitar work to the amazing jazz fusions and long-winded, ambient improv section before the terrific climax on "Multiple Spouse Wounds"! This is easily the band's magnum opus!

The score is definitely what I've been thinking about pretty much these past couple of days. I personally prefer "De-Loused" over this album, due to me having a lot more experience with it (also due to it being one of my most scrobbled albums). However, after even more listens with "Frances", I think this is very much on par. A 9.9 just isn't enough for me anymore (I used to think there was too much drone on “Miranda”). Along with "De-Loused", this is pure prog perfection and, at least in my opinion, it stands above other albums of its genre that I've given almost the same amount of praise to.

Fav Tracks: Cassandra Gemini, Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus, L'Via L'Viaquez, The Widow

Least Fav Track: I guess Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore? Then again, that one's fucking fantastic!


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