Claiming prog back for the punks? No, the Mars Volta are on a far more
v ~personal rock adventure than that. Words: Mark Robertson
e like to keep things difficult for ourselves.'
declares ()mar Rodriguez. Be it opening for
the Red Hot Chili Peppers in front of 9.000 disinterested teens. ﬂipping out for 270 seconds on stage at the MTV Latin Music Awards or just painstakingly constructing the debut album of the year. Rodriguez has never taken the easy path. And this isn't a recent thing either. he broke up his last band. the immense At the Drive-In. just as they were getting big.
‘lt's just a very natural part of life.‘ he says of his previous band‘s demise. ‘The only consistent thing in life is change and if you can‘t keep tip with change. a relationship dies.‘
Rodriguez regrouped in California post ATl)-l with band vocalist and long time friend Cedric Savalas. recruited a trio of similarly focused acolytes and assembled their debut album. [)6- ersed in the Comarnrium. And for such a modest. shy man. Rodriguez is audiny glowing with pride about it.
‘lt’s perfect. Just how I imagined it in my head.’ he says. ‘The ideas were all coming out very organically and easily at the time but we definitely did labour over it. You still have to shape those ideas and get them to be exactly how you hear them in your head. And that takes a lot of love and dedication.‘
D(’-I.()ll.\'(’(1 . . . is as trippy and audacious as the loquacious title suggests. liight tracks in just over an hour house everything frotn t)0-second snatches to I2 and a half-minute sonic assault courses. Songs ebb and ﬂow into one another creating one singular listening expenence.
Cedric Savalas is first mate of the Mars Volta ship of
verbosity. A lyrical powerhouse whose dextrous syllable flippancy finally has a credible foil in Rodriguez‘ complex riffage. Although it may be hard to find within Savalas‘ dense phraseology. the record is a tribute to close friend Julio Venegas. who committed suicide in I996. Savalas wrote a story where the hero overdoses on morphine and instead of dying. falls into a coma and experiences fantastic adventures in his dreams while battling with the good and bad aspects of his conscience. At the end he emerges from the coma but chooses to die.
‘I HOPE PEOPLE DON'T PICTURE SOME KEYBOARD PLAYER IN A CAPE DOING MARS VOLTA ON ICE.‘
To use a phrase from the days of yore when prog dinosaurs ruled. it's a concept album. But wait. let the man explain himself. . .
‘I hope people don‘t picture some keyboard player in a cape doing Mars Volta on Ice. W" have our feet a little more planted on the ground. there is a lot more punk aesthetic in what we do.’
Sure. the whole concept of an album as eulogy is prog as hell (or classical as hell depending on your viewpoint. it worked for Mozart didn't it?) bttt when did having an idea from the outset become such a bad idea?
The charts are filled with disjointed collections of
disparate tracks drawn together in the vain hope they might sustain 45 minutes — see the latest releases by Travis. Stereophonics or the Strokes if further evidence is required.
The Mars Volta's is a completely adrenalised sound. expressive but swift. bursting with impatience and bombast but minus the arrogance or pomposity. Admittedly. its all devastatingly pretentious but no more contrived than Morrissey‘s vicar in a tutu or Bon Jovi purporting to be a bloody cowboy.
And what does ‘prog‘ really mean now anyway? The closest we have to the original aesthetics of prog is today‘s electronica boffins: Boards of Canada or Autechre have more in common spiritually if not musically with Yes or King Crimson than the Mars Volta ever will.
Their music may take a few listens to permeate the brain but once it's lodged inside there's enough to keep you coming back for more. all that‘s required is an open mind and ()0 minutes.
They tnade a most uncharacteristic of Scottish debuts at this year‘s T in the Park. headlining the king Tut's Tent while RliM were charming the hoardes on the tnain stage. Their 30-minute shock treatment gave an indication of what is to come at the Barrowland: more open-ended. inspired rock. awash with biting guitars. tireless percussion and wailing keys. The rm] sound of progress.
The Mars Volta play Barrowland, Glasgow, Wed 19 Nov.
All the sticks, ﬂicks and turntable tricks in the wonderful world of music
FURTHER TO HIS FULL-BLOWN live happenin‘ over at the Cottier Theatre this issue. Canada’s most magical turntablist Kid Koala pops into Borders Books in Glasgow on Friday 14 November at 5.30pm for a short taster performance of his self-styled electro hip hop trickery. And it's free — how can you afford not to go?
AS THE MTV BANDWAGON
rolls off into the sunset we can breathe a sigh of relief and return to the real world. So people please stop standing about outside hotels and shops, gazing at the windows in the faint hope of catching a glimpse of one of our most cherished pop muppets. Anyway I digress . . .
There’s good stuff to look forward to as Aereogramme have confirmed a show at Barfly on Hogmanay, the Proclaimers will show up in George Square at the same time and a certain Scottish pop quartet will top Edinburgh’s festivities on 31 December. Details will be announced soon. Wink wink.
WITHOUT WISHING TO associate anyone with that daft yellow bear with the bandage or anything, the Cathouse is hosting another novel fundraiser for Children in Need. For a small donation you can go and rattle through your fave rock. punk or metal number on stage with the house band (providing they know it of course!) and the proceeds will go to charity.
MUSICWORKS CONFERENCE has been pronounced a resounding success. Held at Glasgow’s Raddision Hotel earlier this month, it debated and discussed the future of music and attracted delegates from over 300 different companies. Highlights included Yello’s Dieter Meier, James Bond ﬁlm scorer David Arnold and dub master Jah Wobble who stole the show in a discussion on the ethics of downloading by berating of a fellow panellist from the BPI before running out the door mid-way through to catch a plane! Rock’n’rollers, eh?
13—27 Nov 2003 THE LIST 45