Thursday, 11 October 2018
The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute b/w The Widow
Frances the Mute - the album - gets a lot of hate, but it's always been my favourite Mars Volta album. I remember being knocked over by it the first time and I still listen to it often now. The way they bring Cassandra Gemini around at the end was perfect; I remember telling my dad that they were a modern-day Led Zeppelin, a ridiculous claim but what I felt at the time. I once saw a copy of the album on 4LP glow-in-the-dark vinyl in a record shop in Melbourne for $400 or so. I wasn't remotely tempted, but I knew I'd never see a copy in the wild again and, so far, I was right.
This isn't Frances the Mute the album, but Frances the Mute the single. The cd case for the album had lyrics beneath the cd tray for a song that wasn't on the album. Those lyrics are the lyrics to this title-track that didn't make the cut, since the album was already pushing the limits of a single cd. I can remember the excitement of finally being able to hear a song whose lyrics had been so mysteriously left behind on the packaging. It's a good song and would have fit the album, but I don't think it suffers for missing it. It's 14 minutes long, but really only about 8 or 9 of music. Had it been on the album with all the ambient noise either side, I think it would have harmed the flow. The hint of Cassandra Gemini through the static at the end always makes me want to put the album on.
The b-side is a live acoustic version of The Widow, which mostly sounds lovely and works far better than those words suggest it will do. To account for the almost-screamed chorus (which would struggle over the gentle acoustic guitar), Cedric messes around with his voice through all sorts of effects pedals and boxes, which isn't as good as the original but interesting nonetheless.
I found this copy in Selectadisc in London the day before I flew out to Germany to visit my friend Matt. From Germany I went to Austria to see some friends in Vienna, then back to Lancaster to see some other university friends followed by a quick trip back to Winchester before flying back to Australia for my second term over there (my carbon footprint at that time was substantial). That means I didn't actually get to listen to this until I was back in Winchester a few weeks after buying it, and then not again for another 6 months. I recorded a couple of records I bought that winter onto tape to take back to Canberra, but this one didn't end up anywhere. It's slim sleeve means I've routinely overlooked it in my collection (especially surrounded my The Mars Volta's other album in their double gatefold sleeves). I've not listened to it enough.
Cost: £6 new
Bought: Selectadisc, London
Etching: Side B: "The Widow live at the Wiltern"