I’m getting a little tired of The Mars Volta. For several years, they were every Alternative Rock magazine’s wet dream, and enjoyed a steady stream of positive press, despite their reportedly wretched live show and their penchant for undigestible filler in their albums. Even I have been a faithful listner, purchasing both of their albums and really digging it when they rock out, and usually fast-forwarding through the 5 and 6-minute “jam” sessions (read: either noise or ambient) between hooks.
But I just don’t see as much to love in Amputechture, their new album. They’ve dropped the odd pretenses of Francis the Mute like cutting up their songs in curious ways, but they’ve kept their same familiar habit of dissonant jams that linger just a bit too long before they provide some musical meat for the listener again.
Oh, Amputechture‘s still classic Mars Volta, but maybe that’s the problem. Much of their earlier work suggested a unique band solidifying its sound, but I don’t feel as though they’ve grown at all as musicians or as an act—the same tricks that weren’t as impressive the first time, the same bullshit intellectualism (“In this song, I’m going to string together a long list of medical terms into nonsequiturs! In the next song, I’m going to do the same thing, but we’ll have six minutes of monotonous guitar jamming first!”), the same bone thrown to Omar’s hispanic heritage (there’s an obligatory one song per album that’s sung in Spanish), the same sloppy-cuz-it’s-cool approach to soloing to hide the fact that The Mars Volta aren’t very good musicians compared to their “progressive rock” brethren.
But I suppose my main objections to Amputechture are that it seems to be an album written out of obligation rather than true creative spirit. It plods along, using the same instrumental backdrops until they become white noise and the album sounds like Cedric shrieking his word salad a capella. I can’t recall, after listening to the disc several times, any parts to seek to, anything that popped at me or stood out in any way. I could not imagine that such a fucked-up (in a good way) album could be so incredibly boring, but it is. The Mars Volta’s grab bag of musical tricks strikes me as droll and little else.
The sad truth is Amputechture is a straightforward Mars Volta album. Prior to this, I thought such a thing was a contradiction in terms, but the boys have unfortunately proved otherwise.