The Mars Volta Keeps Fans Guessing On A Super Slinky Comeback Album

Never underestimate The Mars Volta’s ability to surprise even their most ardent fans. Going back to the early days of their first band, At The Drive-In, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López were musical chameleons, metamorphosing from the crafty, furious hardcore punk of this outfit to make way for explosion. of the program rock, jazz, alternative rock and Latin rhythms from The Mars Volta.

And now, a decade and a short-lived split after their last album, Noctourniquet, they’ve gone boldly and unexpectedly pop, with their eponymous new collection that sits perfectly between slick, espadrille-clad yacht rock and slinky R&B.

There is a darkness at the heart of it all. The group came to a halt in 2013, after Bixler-Zavala joined the Church of Scientology ostensibly to try to cope with a financially crippling bad habit. He didn’t have much experience and has since voiced his criticism of the organization, not least because his wife, actress Chrissie Carnell, was among the members to accuse fellow Scientologist Danny Masterson – his former teammate in The 70’s Show and former partner – of rape (which he denies), and to describe controlling and coercive behavior within the church.

Bixler-Zavala’s fury at this hellish situation is evident throughout this record. “I will shine the blackest lightt”, he sings Black light shine. “To the culprit on all fours.” In the past, this feeling would have been supported by an impenetrable wall of noise, a musical mix made to unravel over days and weeks of listening. Here, however, it encounters a slice of Hall & Oates-worthy MOR funk, backed by slinky rattlesnake percussion.

This is arguably the first time in The Mars Volta that Bixler-Zavala’s voice takes center stage, with Rodríguez-López’s fireworks taking precedence over more subtle instrumentation, notably on County History. A moonlit take on R&B that owes Prince a substantial debt, it’s romantic, even sexy, in a completely new way for them.

Elsewhere, faded 80s pop Vigilthe Latin soul of Que Dios De Maldiga Mi Corazonand the heavy reggae of Equus 3 show a band stretching for their own satisfaction, regardless of what their usual audience expects. Same No case win, with the more pointed voice of yesteryear, is tempered by an atmospheric musical base that suggests a love of early Talk Talk. It is so tasteful.

Where once they galloped, here they gallop, they glide, giving themselves all the time in the world. Diehard fans of weird stuff will hate it. It’s hard to imagine this duo of auditory adventurers not caring. This is clearly the right music for this stage of their musical evolution. Good to see they still keep us guessing.

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