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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

I'm sad to say that I think The Mars Volta have slightly lost their edge. The first album I ever heard by them - 'Frances the Mute' - took absolutely ages to get into. I hated it for about a month. Then slowly I discovered the overall structure of the album and enjoyed its nuances (and bird tweeting). It is now one of my favourite albums ever. The pain I had to go through is proportionate to the pleasure I get from it now.

'Noctourniquet' is a different kettle of fish entirely. I was into it within a matter of days. I've been listening to it for a while and I still can't hear the musical links betweens the different tracks as I can with their best albums. Granted, it still builds to a climax, but the final song 'Zed and Two Naughts' - despite being the best song on the album - has a fairly standard verse/chorus structure. The chorus never progresses. The first is the same as the last. Plus, it borders dangerously on 'catchy' and 'easy listening'. Not something that The Mars Volta are famous for.

There is a period of about five songs in the middle where everything is quite calm and restrained. In fact, there are far too many slow, quiet numbers. Not to say that they're all bad: 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' is one of the album highlights, with its mixture of low bleepy noises and acoustic guitar noodle-doodling. And there we come to another point: Omar's giddy guitar playing seems to have taken a back seat in quite a few tracks. It's still there, but a lot more restrained and at times seems dominated by synth noises.

I've been listening to previous Mars Volta albums recently and I think that this is their weakest offering. But just as with premium quality telly, such as Farscape, where even the worst episode is way better than anything else, this album is still worthy of your time. (Doccortex will be very pleased that the longest track is only 7 minutes and 26 seconds long. I did say they were losing their edge...)



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