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The Mars Volta - Bedlam in Goliath (Cover Artwork)

The Mars Volta

The Mars Volta: Bedlam in GoliathBedlam in Goliath (2008)
Universal Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: DangerHazzardDangerHazzard
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I was that asshole at the party who told the frat boy in the Mars Volta T-shirt that Relationship of Command is probably the best thing anyone ever associated with At the Drive-In will ever create, only to brush by their abundant blinks for the snack table. Finally, Omar and Cedric have proven me wr.
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I was that asshole at the party who told the frat boy in the Mars Volta T-shirt that Relationship of Command is probably the best thing anyone ever associated with At the Drive-In will ever create, only to brush by their abundant blinks for the snack table. Finally, Omar and Cedric have proven me wrong.

I love De-Loused in the Comatorium. Though the bass is mixed too low and there are a few extended movements of yawning, as a whole the cyclonic rhythms upheld Omar's birdshot melodies and Cedric's stratospheric falsettos. And like many of you, I was disappointed with Frances the Mute and Amputechture, to put it politely. The band fell for the seedier elements of progressive rock -- extended, meandering solos that neither built nor released any tension within the song. It all felt so very self-involved. And perhaps that was the point?

But with Bedlam in Goliath, Cedric and Omar have rediscovered how the other half of prog lives -- where bands like Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Flower Kings, Tool, so on and so forth, weave their jazz-tinged love of freedom with the underlying fabric of rock music. I know a woman who knits without any instruction and still manages to create something beautiful and wearable -- these bands do the same with guitars, creating something listenable while disposing of any preconceived notions of how rock music should be executed. Finally, the Mars Volta joins them.

Honestly, Omar is not Satriani or Yngwie, but we don't need him to be. The Mars Volta is a punk rock prog band and in that Omar doesn't need to reinvent the guitar for the guitar, but for his own self, and with this album he has done that. He not only does his solos and improvisations to the best of his ability, but he fulfills them within the parameters of his ideas, which is where Frances and Amputechture suffered -- in their desire to be something other than what they were. They were records of ideas and abstractions, wandering noise, ultimately unlistenable in their aimlessness.

The song "Goliath" in particular plays brilliantly with these fears of vaporous noodlry; minutes in, it teases at a drop into formless chaos, only to wrench back up like a diver for air, and does this a few more times within as well, knowing us to be the fickle and untrusting audience we are. But dare to believe once again: The Mars Volta has written an album (the concept of which isn't really necessary to understand to find enjoyable) that is actually comprised of songs. Songs that fucking slay.

Bedlam is not De-loused Part 2; everything between that album and this is condensed and incorporated eloquently, the best parts of their output so far blended beyond reproach, from me at least. I feared the loss of the drummer from that album would finally put this band into the ground, but the new guy takes the voodoo-tribal rhythms of De-loused, the threats of improv from the other two, and makes them supplant the rock, rather than the other way around. The initiation is complete and his place in this band is secure.

The song "Soothsayer" embodies the Mars Volta's final lesson from their heroes of prog (Floyd, et. al.): improvisation thrives within established structures. It's as true as music as it is in poetry; the best and most poignant work is often teased out in the rules of a given design. By re-acclimating themselves to rock song structures, their abilities flatter rather than flounder.

If Cedric's voice didn't charm you before, prepare to grind your molars. I've always appreciated the risks he took with regard to his own abilities and the place of effects with vocals; how come it's perfectly acceptable to have a thousand guitar pedals but when someone tries to expand the parameters of the vocals, things get personal? I don't think Cedric has made claims of operatic accomplishment, but accomplish something he has. It is evident throughout the career of the Mars Volta that he has taken his voice as something more than a lyrical delivery device. His style is singular, both listenable and challenging, his lyrics uncompromised and as "progressive," i.e. formidable, that is, as a band known for experimentation, it would be an insult for Cedric to do any less with his words.

The bottom line is that Mars Volta still doesn't need your approval or mine, and Bedlam in Goliath doesn't change that. Tear up their fros in the messageboards, question their sexuality while you apply your eyeliner, take their jokes too seriously and tout a meaningless punk rock ethos while they're the punkest (riskiest) band around at the moment. The Mars Volta will never give a fuck what you think and be truer artists for it all the while.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Mars Volta - OctahedronThe Mars Volta - AmputechtureThe Mars Volta - De-Loused In The ComatoriumThe Mars Volta - Frances The MuteAt The Drive-In - Relationship Of CommandThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Cursive - The Ugly OrganRise Against - The Sufferer & the WitnessAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseThe Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island, Burn

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
consolationprizefighter (April 25, 2008)

"If Frances didn't have Miranda or the filler after The Widow, I would have loved the whole thing too."

So fucking true.

i-type-poorly (April 22, 2008)

If Frances didn't have Miranda or the filler after The Widow, I would have loved the whole thing too.

Amputechture is my favorite. The songs are long, but they are really groovy and not boring in the slightest. The songs flow like waves going hi and low, but always maintaining a steady beat.

steveman (April 22, 2008)

Am I really the only person that loves Frances The Mute? I thought it was an amazing work. You can't really compare it to Deloused though, the albums could have been written by different bands and both are amazing. In a way I think it's the more structured rock approach that brought me down on Amputechture and Bedlam. I enjoy them both, but I never feel that they are amazing.

Also, comparing Mars Volta to Tool or Dreamtheater is blasphemy. Those bands are atrocious and sharing their fanbase makes me cringe.

Score is for Frances The Mute.

punkgato (April 21, 2008)

This review and it's following comments are unbelieveable...this band isn't "amazing" or "terrible", they are just plain boring and really need to reel it in a bit and get someone other than themselves behind the board!

paulrulzdood (April 21, 2008)

definitely easier to get into, more focused and listenable than "amputecture" or "francis the mute". Really a pretty great album if you like what they do. I like it.

Paul

Piata (April 21, 2008)

Absolutely the most god awful annoying music around. While this album is slightly better than their previous few, it's still terrible.

mattramone (April 21, 2008)

Did this frat boy drive a van with a wizard painted on it?

Dante3000 (April 21, 2008)

HAHA you go to parties with frat boys.
-Dante

holy_balls (April 21, 2008)

They are so amazing live. This CD is so badass. I was dissapointed in Frances, but they sort of redeemed themselves with Amputechture. But this CD proved to me that they can still be experimental without a bunch of useless noise.

Mike_Killroad (April 20, 2008)

AHH! Such a good album.

Awesome everything. Drumming, vocals, stucture, guitar work, etc etc etc.

strickland (April 20, 2008)

Great review. Normally i cant be bothered to read essays, but this one held my complete attention.

And its fucking right on too. This album is wicked. Like their earlier work, it blows apart instrumental barriers and doesnt give a fuck about any kind of rule book. Musicianship, production and song-writing are all bang on.

PS Relationship of Command is not the best thing ATDI ever did. Try Vaya.

SydBarrett420 (April 20, 2008)

Best album the Volta have put out in a while, but still, the only songs I really dug were "Agadez" and "Cavalettas"

TeaEssAre (April 20, 2008)

Score is for the album

Deloused is still their best (and better than Relationship of Command)

But I even lIke Frances the Mute...Sure there are tons of parts where theres nothing but ambient noises, but once you get to the music, its just as good as Deloused.

Amputechture blew

This album is really good, but all of the vocal effects cedric uses, piss me off, so that's basically its only fault, but a lingering never-ending fault

Problematiclogic (April 19, 2008)

Great album, much better than Amputechture.

Bad review though, try talking about more than 2 of the songs next time...

thedude (April 19, 2008)

excellent review. probably the best i could expect coming from anyone who regularly checks this website, considering the hate people throw at this band (including myself). i have the same opinion on all of their albums as the author, so i think i'm going to check this out after hearing it's more of a return to the de-loused style. thanks for providing an unbiased review.

branden (April 19, 2008)

it would be better if cedric didnt sing like an asshole the entire time. comin from someone who has always really dug his vocals, this album sounds like he sang the whole thing through his nose and tried to make it as annoying as possible. almost ruins the record. goliath is a really good song though.

consolationprizefighter (April 19, 2008)

Great album as far as the Volta goes. Not better than Relationship of Command.

i-type-poorly (April 19, 2008)

This album was a bit too frenetic for me to praise it up and down. They wail on their guitars at high speed so much that it all kinda gets samey. Despite that, it's all good music, I can only enjoy it in 20 minute bursts. I can't take the full 75 minutes of it.

smelltheglove (April 19, 2008)

Deloused is one of my favorite albums ever, but the two that followed really turned me off to them. Wtf is the point of the one 30 minute song broken up into a bunch of different tracks on Frances? Deloused was experimental and daring without a shitty aftertaste.

I didn't even consider listening to this, but this review has me interested.

THEmax (April 19, 2008)

bravo to the mars volta. great album.

Hey_Asshole (April 19, 2008)

prog is for assholes.

can we finally just get a fucking ATDI reunion. however many records this band put out is too many. for that matter, one record by this band is one too many

Nap (April 19, 2008)

Bedlam > Deloused > Frances > Amputechture

Matthew330 (April 19, 2008)

People still care about this band?

I just can't listen to their stuff anymore.

ElVaquero (April 19, 2008)

In the interest of fairness I tried listening to this when it came out but I couldn't make it past 2 or 3 songs. It was just so fucking god damn ANNOYING.

GlassPipeMurder (April 19, 2008)

I dug it. I also liked the all the promotional computer games and shit...fun stuff and got me excited about the album. so i'm a sucker for interactive advertising ploys...sue me.

Rastid (April 19, 2008)

wow, i didn't know people actually liked this band. can i do some sort of anthropological study on you?

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