If you aren’t aware of The Mars Volta by now, there’s probably the reason. You aren’t the type of person who drinks gallons of tequila, has assorted maracas arranged into size and might randomly consider growing a moustache. That’s not entirely true about the band, but it it’s the sort of craziness that you can expect from this alt-Latin-jazz rock band on previous recordings. And the sonic weirdness has been good.
But at times though, the crazy ear-bleeding noises and faux-Spanish lyrics have got just that bit too much. Creative boundaries have been pushed and lines crossed once too often. Thankfully, Octahedron is less controversial. And though very much in the spirit of the Volta it’s like someone has finally put a leash on this rabid dog, resulting in a far more controlled affair. Musically it’s the Alcaseltza after the night of tequila slammers, hinting at far darker and heavier things while actually only delivering a relatively soothing blend of rattling delayed guitars and soft but determined vocals.
Indeed ‘Teflon’ seems to possess the characteristics of its name-sake. Heavy drums disappear into a mix of strange guitar sounds while subdued vocals slide over the whole proceedings. This is indeed not only arguably the best material the Volta have delivered since their debut, ‘Deloused in the Comatorium’, it’s also some of the best material since Omar and Cedric's days fronting At The Drive-In. Whether it’s the early shrieked intensity of ‘Desperate Graves’ or the softer Latin blend in ‘Halo of Nembutals’, the diversity on offer here is of the like missing for several albums now.
There are still some characteristic difficulties – the format is eight very long tracks. And indeed by the end of that first track ‘Since We’ve Been Wrong’ you know if you don’t like it you never will. But arguably for those trying to catch a lift onto this crazy ride this may well be the stop point you’ve been looking for.
Flawed only in its idiosyncrasies, you’ve not heard rock until you’ve heard how The Mars Volta do it. And there’s few better examples than this.