It comes as no real surprise but The Mars Volta have split. Using his twitter account two weeks ago Cedric Bixler – Zavala announced that he was no longer a member of the band, and as such, The Volta were no more. Citing a general lack of interest and an unwillingness to tour by co-founder Omar Rodriguez-Lopez in favour of his new band Bosnian Rainbows, Cedric went on to say ‘What am I supposed to do, be some progressive house wife that’s cool with watching their partner go fuck other bands? We owe it to our fans to tour’.
I have to say I am gutted. The Mars Volta are, were, will always be my favourite band. From the second I heard ‘Roulette Dares’ all those years ago blasting out of the TV as my sister flicked through the music channels, I knew I was destined to be a devotee. Never had I heard a band so explosive, so creative, a band influenced by the behemoths of the past but who had taken it to a whole new level and who didn’t give a flying fuck what people said about them. The music was energetic, exciting, progressive, mysterious. It was unique in it’s time, no other band sounded anything like them except maybe the RX Bandits, but where they had that west coast chill going on TMV were like what it must feel like to be trampled by a herd of rampaging buffalo, caressed back to health by the soothing hands of angels only to be thrust into the path of a convoy of speeding MACK trucks. People talk lots about bands of old like Floyd and Zeppelin and how their music was engrossing, intoxicating, how you could put on one of their records, close your eyes and be transported to a place all of your own making. The music painted pictures in your mind’s eye that took you to another time, another realm, leaving you smiling and breathless from the journey when you emerged from the other side. The Mars Volta were able to do that too with Cedric’s lyrics rooted in the occult, often accompanied by curious tales of their derivation, always lending themselves perfectly to the dramatic chords and time signatures that were the hallmark of Omar’s writing talents. With odd names and strange lyrics, the band conjured a mystique through their music that just made you want to listen, to try and figure out what the fuck it was that this sublime, chaotic music was all about?
To me The Mars Volta were the perfect band. They encompassed everything I love about music in one group. From progressive rock, to jazz jams, to spaced out cerebral silk to pure fucking insanity, all delivered with a latin lilt that oozed rhythm and soul and groove. Their music was, is, and always will be a sonic experience rather than just something to listen to. But it was clear during the making of ‘Noctourniquet’, their final offering, that all was not well within the Volta camp. In one interview Omar had a lil moan, diplomatic as it was, that Cedric was taking his time in putting down the vocals on a record that had been long made. That, together with the rumours that the rest of the band had wanted more of an influence on the writing of the music itself, as opposed to the dictatorial approach that had been taken by Omar in previous releases, all signalled unrest and unease in a band where the unity and clear friendship of the main players had always been something to admire and was clearly the foundation upon which great music was made. The record itself, to me at least was a bit of a let down. Critics and most fans however seemed to like it. The songs had more of an individuality than all of their previous releases. In that I mean, the album was more a collection of songs, rather than one huge sonic landscape sculpted by highs and lows of tempo and rhythm, woven together by a recurrent theme or hook or lick. It was something that some fans had wanted, but to me it made the whole thing less coherent, and ultimately less enjoyable. That said, it was still better than anything else released in 2012, and I say that with clear bias but I maintain that to be true.
So ten years, six studio albums and one live album in the shape of ‘Scab Dates’, we have a lot to be thankful for. But what now for Omar and Cedric as they go their separate ways? Well, the reason for the demise of The Mars Volta is the band Omar has been accused of cheating with, Bosnian Rainbows. On the same day as Cedric bailed out of the Volta, Bosnian Rainbows made available their first track, ‘Torn Maps’. I’ll be honest, I think it’s shit. You can decide for yourself down below, but if we gotta lose The Mars Volta for this then I for one feel a little bit cheated. I love Omar and to put things into perspective I have bought almost everything he has ever released. This is just one song, so things may improve with a full album later this year, but as of now it’s not a date I shall be putting in my diary. And Cedric? Well he’s making a solo album as I write, and last year he released a record with a band called ‘Anywhere‘ that’s actually pretty good. It’s suitably weird, more acoustic than TMV but certainly worth checking out. I do look forward to his solo effort too which has yet to be given a release date but that’s something I will look out for and will let you know about.
So that’s that. The end of an era. The end of a great band. Did I say I was gutted? Yeah I think I did. No matter, I shall console myself in the glory of their works, by playing a lot of their music on the radio stream over the next week or so, so you can console yourselves too. Is that any consolation? Well yeah it is, kick back, put on the stream and see for yourself why I’m choked. And then I won’t have to be sad all on my own.
Check out these vids and decide for yourself if you should be sad or not?