Mars Volta – Frances The Mute (Vinyl 3LP)


Triumph breeds confidence, and with confidence comes an expansion of ambition, a focus of ability, an emboldening of audacity. 2003’s De-Loused In The Comatorium had risked everything Omar and Cedric possessed on the wildest of gambits, the most impossible of dreams: making sense of the riot of influences ricocheting about Omar’s head, and memorialising their departed friend Julio Venegas through Cedric’s magical realist roman-a-clef. It shouldn’t have worked. But it did, and with that fiendish tightrope act successfully accomplished, the duo stretched the wire even further and higher, over a figurative fiery pit peopled with lions, crocodiles, piranha and other sharp-toothed beasts not yet known to man. Because how do you make great art without taking great risks?

2005 follow-up Frances The Mute was no De-Loused Part Two. For one thing, the band’s configuration had changed, in the most painful way. Shortly before the release of De- Loused, sound manipulator and founder member Jeremy Michael Ward passed away, a wound Omar says the group never recovered from. But even though his inspired fucking-with-the-sonic-parameters is absent from Frances The Mute, his spirit and influence can still be determined, the album’s concept derived from a diary Ward had encountered in his day-job in repossession. “Jeremy picked up lots of interesting stuff when he was a repo man,” remembers Cedric. “Weird things, including this diary, He let us read it a bunch of times. It was by a guy who’d been adopted and was searching to find his real parents. It was very surreal, it didn’t make much sense – the guy might’ve been schizophrenic – but it was very inspiring. It felt like how certain music helps you escape your boring every-day life. The names and scenes in the diary directly inspired these songs.”

Some of the tracks pre-dated De-Loused, having their origins in early demos Omar recorded at the duo’s Long Beach home Anikulapo, songs such as “The Widow” and “Miranda The Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore.” Cedric had heard these jams in their embryonic state and began working in his mind on what he could bring to them. “I was attracted to The Widow like you would be to a lover, right?” Cedric remembers. “I sang over it with Omar while we were touring De-Loused in Australia on the Big Day Out, like, ‘Okay, I’ve got something for this.'” A potent ballad, laden with emotional crescendos and evoking the epic drama of Ennio Morricone – an effect aided by an elegiac trumpet part performed by Flea – “The Widow” would become The Mars Volta’s first song to chart on the Billboard Top 100, capturing the album’s potent sorrow and widescreen sprawl in miniature.

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