Spin #82 : Frances The Mute (Song) : The Mars Volta
SUNDAY DROP - SPIN #82
Welcome to our 82nd Sunday drop from the R'nR with Rylo collection and a selection that is different to what we usually spin here. I really wanted to give the album, 'Frances The Mute' by The Mars Volta a spin but couldn't bring myself to review both after spinning this single. It makes for a shorter Sunday Drop but one that is essential for any fans of the band. I couldn't find enough time to do the package of the single and album, as it would go for a whopping 90+minutes. One that wouldn't be easy to spin with the children around due to its runtime but one that I feel they will love as they grow older. Plus, the weather has been pretty nice and been spending most of our time outside in the Funshine. Our kids got to run around and play with their toys and some water to splash in. Seeing those little faces and hearing their laughter one of the best moments a parent can experience.
I've decided to Spin our 82nd spin on the Audio Technica turntable in the front room and use the crisp sounds of the Marshall Woburn II speaker.
There is an awful lot to hear on this track and the production levels are insanely good. There is another copy that was released in 2023 for Record Store Day too and it gave fans a chance to own this collectors piece. I know that my sister managed to snag herself a copy and there are slight upgrades between the two copies - better album jacket quality, 45RPM instead of 33 1/3 RPM, crisper production by Clouds Hill and Omar. Is the cover better? I look at the cover of the 2005 release as the gramophone from the viewpoint of the man with a bird mask on. The 2023 version has both the gramophone and bird mask man. Maybe they'll release a 2038 version with another person's point of view.
Image: Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez
It's time to #dropthestylus on this progressive rock classic!
I was excited to finally get The Mars Volta's entire studio album collection a couple of years ago, only to find that a couple of records were missing. One being their live album, 'Scabdates' and the stand-alone single, 'Frances the Mute'. A lot of people online have stated that the 3 x LP pressing should have included the song on the album of the same name, due to the final side being an etching. I think having them separately is fine too. I like the song and I like the album and yes they do go together well but I also respect that the band didn't at the time. Could they have released a double CD, yes probably but for whatever reasons, decided not to do that. I've started thinking lately about our children's futures and what can be done today to ensure that they can have a head start. Being home this week has let me see them in full flight and smiling as they grow and interact with each other more. I managed to get a really nice photo of both of them getting ready for school with their backpacks on and hugging each other.
It was a delight to hear their little voices say, "What's that Daddy?" as the start of 'FRANCES THE MUTE' came through the speakers. We have a small wooden baby fence up to stop our littlest Rylo from getting into the computer desk area and it looked like they were front row of the mosh pit during a live show, arms over the railing talking to the band. Interestingly, the song starts off with an eerie set of sounds that made them think it was a spooky Halloween song. They both honestly didn't know what to think of the sounds they were hearing and I'm sure you feel the same right now as you are listening along. Everyone seems to forget that there is a lot of tension building on this introduction and you are rewarded for 'surviving' the first 4 minutes or so. Maybe put on a decent pair of headphones and you will begin to hear more and more after the 1-2 minute mark. One thing for certain, The Mars Volta are talented in inviting you into their world by only a few sounds or instruments.
When they have performed (rarely) this song live, they cut the performance down by a few minutes and add more guitar work at the beginning. Cedric's vocals are as heavenly and chaotic as ever during this song. There is a complex and interwoven theory about the song and album which I will loosely go into. Ok, so basically Frances becomes pregnant and the father is a priest who won't allow her and the child to live. Frances is then chased throughout the town and almost killed before her sister L'via tries to intervene. The priest then forgets about Frances (who is badly beaten and attacked, similar to how they tried to kill Rasputin - meaning lots of ways). Whilst the priest is chasing L'via in the distance, Frances manages to make her way to a spot nearby and manages to give birth before passing away. It's an interesting theory because the first song on the album represents the beginning of Cygnus, her son and the ending of this song flows into that opening guitar riff by Omar. So the album is named after the mother but her song doesn't appear on the album, representing her being taken away from Cygnus and starting his life without her - powerful. An example of these powerful lyrics is when Cedric sings, "She said, I'll never let them hurt you, I'll never let them in. What you took from me is mine, What is mine I'll never give'. There is an awful lot more to get into but I think that I will leave the remainder for when I review the album. I know, it's engaging and you want more from the story but please be patient.
The song is broken into three sections -
- A. In Thirteen Seconds
- B. Nineteen sank, while six would swim
- C. Five would grow and one was dead
I'm not entirely sure of the references that the sections are referring too but I wanted to simply let you know there are three distinct sections to this 14 minute song. Loving the bass work of Juan Alderete on this song and the guitar work of Omar. There is a moment where Cedric's vocals are so clear and close that you get a feeling of hair standing on end, similar to when someone whispers into your ear. Also, the sound of a demon! No not really. It's a cool vocal effect when he sings, "Mingle with the carnivores you've something both in common now". As always the drumming of Jon Theodore is solid and he has such a following because of his talent. I feel all the musicians on this album and this era of The Mars Volta were loved so much and sad to hear some of them are now gone. If you have time, check out a few videos online of him playing and you'll be blow away. He is now the current drummer for band, Queens of the Stone Age.
The atmospheric sounds and ending lead into the theory of Cygnus being born and these are the sounds that he is hearing whilst in the womb. Slowly making his way into the world and the guitar riff getting louder and louder. If you have the album, do yourself a service and play the opening track right after you finish hearing this one. Its alright, I will wait for you before flipping the LP over. I'll make myself a cuppa and check in on the young Rylos, who are probably off somewhere building a cubby house out of every possible piece of furniture that we have in our house.
**YOU LISTENING TO THE OPENING OF CYGNUS........VISMUND CYGNUS TO HEAR THE LINK, RYLO GETTING A CUPPA AND CHECKING ON KIDS**
Fresh from the kitchen after brewing a nice cuppa and confirm that the kids are indeed making cubby houses and getting ready for the NRL Grand Final tonight. Our daughter (Q) running around in her Panther's jersey and saying quietly, "Rawr". It's a shame the game is on at 8pm for the kids, because they usually fall asleep before then. The AFL Grand Final seems to be better for them with the 2.30pm start and bedtime at their normal time. The second track is called, 'THE WIDOW' and is a live version. The track appears on the album 'Frances the Mute' and sounds great for a live version. They have such complex songs that sound great on the albums, with time and production at a premium. Sometimes you forget that these guys are just as good live and might have to slightly alter how the song appears in a live setting. I like this version of such a powerful song but nothing beats the studio version and position within the albums track listing.
The Mars Volta have not announced anything for Australia shows on their current tour and to be honest, I don't expect them to. If they do, it won't be for a couple of years but I will be going. I've not had the pleasure of seeing them perform live yet and missed out when they were performing at Big Day Out (too young, just). My sister saw them perform and said that they were good. I think it's the mix of rock, jazz, psychedelic sounds, haunting vocals and cohesion amongst so many musicians that I love about this band. Check out this link from one of their earliest and obviously rawest sounding performances here. Even if it's just to see how much is going on whilst performing and the intricacies of their songs.
Who would have thought that we would be able to write so much about an A/B side single compared to the usual albums that we spin, but we have. Thanks for coming back this Sunday to see what we are spinning, and I hope that you have enjoyed it this week. 'Frances The Mute' is a great song and feel it's more impactful once you understand the complete backstory. I'll try and keep R'nR with Rylo going this week but if work gets too busy, I won't be gone for long. Hug your loved ones and enjoy the sunshine this weekend. Now it's time to find out how much damage has been done by our children. Well, not damage, but inspect what level of clean-up is required.
"Hatred and Prejudice will never be eradicated. And Witch hunts will never be about Witches. To have a scapegoat - That's the key" - Geralt of Rivia
Until our next Spin, be Kind to people who love items of mystique and be Kind to your Wax!
GOLD STANDARD LABORATORIES
SPEED PLAYED AT
33 1/3 RPM
DE-LOUSED IN THE COMATORIUM (2003)
FRANCES THE MUTE (2005)
XENOPHANES - OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ (2009)
FRANCES THE MUTE (SONG)
RATING OUT OF 5
WHAT'S INSIDE THE RECORD SLEEVE
1 X GREEN/MINT COLOURED VINYL THAT GLOWS IN THE DARK. LYRICS PRINTED ON THE BACK IN A SLEEVE STYLE JACKET, VERY THIN/FRAGILE
"It's been thirteen seconds since you all last said. I've become the apparition, You predicted for my death. You said that flirting brings you closer to the end. You can bait into the water, but you'll never get the hint" ~ Frances The Mute - Side A
LP / SIDE
FRANCES THE MUTE
A. IN THIRTEEN SECONDS
B. NINETEEN SANK, WHILE SIX WOULD SWIM
C. FIVE WOULD GROW AND ONE WAS DEAD
THE WIDOW (LIVE ACOUSTIC VERSION)
The Mars Volta live on stage in 2005