When I was younger, a thing that really impressed me was a massive stylistic change from a band. It still does impress me, but not as much. And I was always less into stylistic changes that I didn’t like, i.e. into genres I didn’t like. I admire the Mars Volta for trying something different. But if you’re going to say this is your Style Council moment, it’s important to remember Paul Weller changed the name of the band. Instead, the Mars Volta doubled down on the name of their band.
The opening track sometimes reminds me of Ween circa Quebec or La Cucaracha, only without the humour. That’s not indicative of the sound of the rest of the record, just of the sea change. (The opening of “Collapsible Shoulders” reminds me of poppier 21st century Scott Walker before Cedric starts singing…) This is a band that only sounds like the Mars Volta because Cedric is singing and because the odd moment is reminiscent of the poppiest moments on Noctourniquet, but only the odd moment. I called that album their pop album, so…
If I liked this style of music more, I’d probably be really into the change, though I’d still mourn the death of the old band. But, unfortunately, I don’t particularly like this kind of music. Someone described it as 21st century sophistipop and that’s not far off the vibe.
I feel for what Cedric’s wife has gone through. It does make the whole thing feel like his most personal record, for whatever that’s worth. But, as with so many other records where the lyrics might connect with me if I only enjoyed the music…I don’t particularly enjoy the music.
Still, it’s a fairly bold left turn, especially in the context of a reunion. I’m happy to report that the tour was mostly nostalgia, however.