Progressive rock is more than long tracks with several parts. Often times, a prog rock record tells a story, but building that story is no easy feat. The Mars Volta are largely hailed as one of prog rock’s finest, and just a quick look at any of their records will show why. There’s one record that stands out amongst them, though. The Mars Volta’s Frances The Mute show the best of progressive rock and just what this band is truly capable of.
Frances The Mute was written and recorded over the course of four years, around a found journal which detailed an adopted person’s journey to find their real parents. The Mars Volta document this journey is stunning detail and emotion, really taking you on a proper journey through this person’s adventure. ‘Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus‘ opens the record, introducing the records main protagonist, Vismund Cygnus, who is the father of Frances The Mute. The immediately huge track comes with powerful lyrics, the very first lines “The ocean floor is hidden from your viewing lens / A depth perception languished in the night“ showing his anguish over not knowing his true roots. The track continues with different passages and moments throughout it’s 13-minute run, moving between a jazzy, moody middle that builds into a chaotic end.
The rest of the record follows his journey. ‘The Widow,’ a six-minute track with a distinct, cool Western blues vibe topped off with a trumpet part from Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ Flea, comes from an outside perspective, someone who presumptively lives with Vismund explaining his addition to heroin. ‘L’Via L’Viaquez‘ follows, sung almost entirety in Spanish barring the chorus, where they introduce Miranda, who is the subject of the next song ‘Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore.’ Miranda is Cygnus’ mother, the dark melodies and explosive nature of this song explaining how Miranda had set out to expose the church for the wrongdoings but was then met by anger from the public, summed up by the eerie chorus: “And when Miranda sang / Everyone turned away / Used to the noose they obey.“ The thirty-two minute epic ‘Cassandra Gemini‘ ends the record, tying the story together. All the parts come together over this long track, as Cygnus comes to accept the fact that he is victim to his mother’s burdens. It’s like the climax of the story, bringing each chapter of it to its conclusion.
The Mars Volta’s Frances The Mute shows the best of progressive rock, building a wild, long, thought-out story about a found journal of someone searching for their true parents. Frances The Mute shows exactly why progressive rock is such a powerful genre, and really shows what both they and the genre has to offer. It’s a captivating experience if you sit down and really take it all in, and the way it builds its story is simply incredible.
Favorite Tracks: The Widow, Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore, L’Via L’Viaquez
Least Favorite Track: Cygnus… Vismund Cygnus
Rating: 90 / 100
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