pitchfork che li ha sempre disgustati mette un 6 al loro ultimo sforzo Octahedron, l'album meno marsvoltiano del lotto finora. Più o meno sono d'accordo, certo meglio delle ultime croste
Look, here's the deal: If you don't know what you're getting into with a new Mars Volta record at this point, after seven years and five albums (plus one EP and a live thing or two), then my advice is to go directly to full-length numero uno, 2003's De-Loused in the Comatorium. Sample its rhythmic-centric, post-emo art-rock, and decide if you need to continue through the band's catalog. It only gets less user-friendly from there.
Because (speaking to the first-time listeners) "rhythm-centric" here doesn't mean anything remotely funky. It means the frantic, percussion-heavy, multiple-tempo-shifts-per-song brand of complexity inaugurated by batshit 70s-era theatrical hard rock. Also, the band's allegiance to jazz-fusion titans, ones not averse to fuzz and a low-end, means things get far...looser from album number two onward. Arena-grade heavy metal thunder abruptly melts into a groovily aimless journey for congas and electric organ. Repeatedly. Immodestly virtuosic and never afraid to run with a jam, the Mars Volta's ability to alienate newcomers is well-documented. Which means this review is probably for those not already-- or instantly, after their first listen-- alienated.
Is Octahedron the band's best album? No, but if you dig on MV's unrepentantly "big" and meandering suite-driven concept-album thing, you won't necessarily be disappointed. And with songs that only once stray past the eight-minute mark, it's the most accessible MV album since the first. Slower, with fewer breakdowns or out-of-nowhere segues into a wholly new song, it's kind of a Cliffs Notes of everything the band does well, ditching much of the attention-straining stuff. For instance, the hallucinogen-friendly stretches, where glassily effected guitars ping and peal at lava-lamp tempo, have been pruned. (Okay, with a few exceptions.) Even the longest songs stick to something like a coherent mood and linear structure.
Sometimes they even straight-up rock. "Cotopaxi" is perhaps the tersest, most jagged song Omar Rodriguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have cut since At the Drive-In imploded, a boogie riff nodding to their Texan origins, violently cut up and reassembled with virtuoso care. "Desperate Graves" actually builds, rather than dropping a big loud bomb after a placid bit of introductory strumming, and comes with the closest thing the band's written to an instantly memorable chorus in quite a while. Even the breakdown is short and to the point.
This being the Mars Volta, however, it wouldn't do for the album to be entirely curveball-free. For instance, Autechre-style electronic hisses and bristling beats bubble up in the latter half off "Copernicus", mostly without getting all show-offy about it. There's also the general slow and steady downtempo-- or plain downer-- feel to many of the songs. For a band so often pilloried for being too agitated to ride out a good riff, it's probably the closest the Mars Volta will ever come to a cop for the slow jam kids. And it's hard to deny that, depending on your taste for jamming, if you've ever dug on acid-spitting wank-solos over endless, thunderous drum rolls, the final minutes of album closer "Luciforms" is pretty much the shit from a shameless climax standpoint.
As for Rodriguez-López' lyrics, well, sure, they still often verge on the eye-rolling if you're not going to meet him halfway. I'm not going to pretend that a line like, "My devil makes me dream/ Like no other mortal dreams" comes off to me as anything but camp/kitsch. And "don't stop dragging the lake" (from "Cotopaxi") isn't really an earworm as far as hooks go. Now I don't mean to dismiss the words' possible import. It's been clear from album one that the lyrics have a deep resonance for the band, and are meant as clues for the kind of fanbase who enjoys treating records as narratives with big gaps waiting to be filled with a little online research/interview legwork/guesswork. While I'm so not that guy, I will just say the melodrama-rich, scrambled poetry-notebook puzzle pieces do "work" in the context of the album's overall sound. So does the Hammer horror flick sound of Rodriguez-López's tortured-castrato vocals. When his full-tilt shriek joins the band at a moment of total commotion, you can easily imagine the planetarium-scale mock grandeur of it all.
The Mars Volta feeds some very specific needs in its fanbase. There's a certain kind of listener that, maybe once a year or maybe every day, wants music that sates the same impulse that makes people gorge on spectacle-scale cinema or devour the entire Dune series in a few weeks. The Mars Volta's specific brand of bombast may remain an untranslatable language for those rooted in a DIY-scaled world, or committed to the shiny three-minutes-and-change tidiness of the charts. But if you're fiending for the musical equivalent of an epic, partially incoherent battle between good and evil in IMAX 3D, you could do a lot worse.