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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    CD reviews

    The Mars Volta: Amputechture

    Everyone’s favorite genre-bending, Spanish-singing, post-progressive Texas sextet is back.

    Continuing in the fashion laid out by previous album De-Loused in the Comatorium and expanded upon by Frances the Mute, the newest release from The Mars Volta, Amputechture, sustains more than the tradition of oddly named album titles. In fact, the entire album is disappointingly lacking in the innovation that’s helped to keep things interesting on all those 10-minute-plus tracks in the past.

    For such a progressively inclined band, there’s very little evolution here from the last record. Yes, there are still epically long songs here, like “”Tetragrammaton,”” clocking in at over 15 minutes with at least three different movements, but this time around it’s just that: a long song.

    There’s no significant progression in the direction these songs go, if there is a direction at all. Gone are the seamless melting points from one structure to another. Here, any transitions within individual songs are jerky and sudden, like they strung two separate ideas together for the hell of it.

    Perhaps recent tribulations within the band have leaked their way into the songwriting process. Earlier this year, but after the recording of Amputechture, drummer Jon Theodore left the band. Theodore’s tight, endless drumming has always provided The Mars Volta’s songs with a weight that anchored guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s intense, roaming melodies. Maybe whatever it was that motivated his departure made its way onto this album?

    That being said, this is the most accessible Mars Volta album since De-Loused, which, depending on whom you ask, is either good or bad. Amputechture acts more like a bridge between the first two albums. Songs like “”Vermicide,”” the single “”Viscera Eyes”” and “”Day of the Baphomets”” have the straightforward rock and song structure of De-Loused, while “”Vicarious Atonement”” and “”Meccamputechture”” take their time and incorporate the trumpets and other instruments that gave Frances the Mute its high points.

    Thankfully, the three-minute stretches of ambient noise did not transfer over from the previous release.Nearly the entire album is packed with actual, honest-to-goodness music. Singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala maintains his falsetto-tinged belting and doesn’t disappoint with the metaphor-within-a-metaphor lyrics, that is, when you can understand them.

    Understandably, the first single off of Amputechture is the radio-friendly “”Viscera Eyes.”” The quick and short guitar notes that define guitarist Rodriguez-Lopez’s sound are here, and constant drums keep the song from ever resting too much and the clear but always obtuse vocals are catchy. Still, at nine minutes long, fans can expect to hear a chopped-up version on the radio or, if a video is made, on MTV2.

    For the record, the album is completely enjoyable, but the problem here is for established Volta fans, and chances are that if you’re not familiar with The Mars Volta by now, you’re not likely to be any time soon.

    Rating: 7/10

    -Derek Jordan

    Two Ton Boa: Parasiticide

    It’s about time Sherry Fraser got off her ass and gave us another Two Ton Boa record. It’s been six long years since the first and only Two Ton Boa release, an intense pairing of creepy carnival music and straight-up rock ‘n’ roll, bolstered by Fraser’s black, operatic howling.

    Like Nina Hagen or a grittier Siouxsie Sioux, she can produce a thundering roar one moment and coo sweetly the next, hypnotizing the listener. Two Ton Boa’s latest, Parasiticide, is another amalgam of cabaret shtick and bass-heavy sludge. The opener, “”Cash Machine,”” is a bleak rocker for a postmodern age – steel clashes upon steel and Fraser snarls with glee, singing “”Faceless metal miser/Hoarding desires/Crowned with a briar patch/Of tangled razor wire.””

    It should come as no surprise that Fraser hails from Olympia, Wash., where they seem to grow punk rock feminists on trees.

    Parasiticide nearly drowns in the middle, hampered by its own murky vision, but Fraser’s spellbinding voice carries it through, making it a worthy follow-up to 2000’s promising EP.

    Rating: 7/10

    -Davida Larson

    The Damnwells: Air Stereo

    The Damnwells uncompromisingly mirror the sounds of their friends and tour-mates The Fray while remaining hidden in the shadows like wallflower cousins.

    They could easily replace their drummer with a machine because the drums aren’t really part of the music; they’re merely there for background aesthetics.

    Most of the lyrics are either references or replicas from other songs, and when they are original they are of elementary caliber. Lead singer Alex Dezen croons songs about love as if he were playing in a local bar – an atmosphere that might make The Damnwells sound decent but didn’t transfer to Air Stereo.

    The general theme of the album is one of slow melancholy love, strung out in songs that often sound like Coldplay, The Fray or lonely country music. Air Stereo is unoriginal and uninspiring.

    In fact, to describe this album, just choose any positive adjective and put the prefix “”un”” in front of it.

    Rating: 3/10

    -Alexandria Kassman

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