Frances the Mute - The Mars Volta (Universal/Gold Standard Laboratories) 

Since the demise of At the Drive-In, Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler have spent three albums putting their signature on, well, let's call it "busy rock." While the nearest thing on the radio is, regrettably, System of a Down, the comparison is based on the progressive elements and dramatic (but also dissimilar) vocals: The Mars Volta carry no nu-metal baggage.

The first single from Frances the Mute, "The Widow," is now making the rounds on your nearest Clear Channel alternative station. As an attempt at creating a radio-ready four or so minutes, "The Widow" succeeds but nonetheless sounds displaced between Jimmy Eat World and the Killers. Furthermore, there couldn't be a poorer representative of this record as a whole. As the single's unedited album version devolves into an extended, unstructured church-organ freak-out, I can only imagine the twisted expression on the garden-variety mall-punker's face as the following track, "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore," gives them exactly what they don't want: 13 minutes of Spanish vocals, flashlight-in-the-face guitar solos like Carlos Santana trying to mimic Sonny Sharrock, and more changes than the entirety of Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans.

Grade: B+

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