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The Mars Volta’s Self-Titled Album is a Simpler Yet Wholly Satisfying Return

The band’s first new album in a decade largely recaptures their one-of-a-kind brilliance

the mars volta album review
The Mars Volta, photo by Fat Bob

    There’s never been another band quite like The Mars Volta. The Texan troupe — spearheaded by guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala — grew out of post-hardcore outfit At the Drive-In and became one of the most distinctive rock bands of the 2000s. By fusing a host of different styles (progressive rock, ambient, Spanish rock, psychedelia, free jazz, and plenty more) with delightfully strange concepts, all six of their initial studio albums offered something typical yet special.

    Unfortunately, they called it quits following 2012’s Noctourniquet, with both Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López choosing instead to focus on solo work and newer projects (such as Bosnian Rainbows and Zavalaz, respectively).

    Of course, the mid-2010s saw the short-lived reunion of At the Drive-In (including 2017’s in•ter a•li•a, their first new record since 2000’s Relationship of Command); naturally, this development — alongside the duo forming Antemasque, and Cloud Hill Group releasing a career-spanning Mars Volta boxset, La Realidad de Los Sueños, in 2021 — prompted a ton of speculation and desire regarding a potential comeback for The Mars Volta, too.

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    That more or less brings us to The Mars Volta, the ensemble’s seventh studio LP and first in over ten years.

    Billed as the band’s first pop record — with an emphasis on Caribbean rhythms — it drew inspiration from Peter Gabriel’s 1986 triumph, So, which (the press release notes) “saw one of rock’s most experimental, progressive and generally uncooperative voices find a way to deliver his avant garde ideas and powerful subversion in a way that mainstream audiences would be able to decode.”

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    The same holds true for this LP, which sees Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala teaming up with drummer Willy Rodriguez Quiñones, bassist Eva Gardner, and Omar’s younger brother, keyboardist Marcel Rodríguez-López.

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