The Deal: Prog-rockers slow things down a notch for band's fifth album.
The Good: From the first notes of "Since We've Been Wrong," you can tell the latest effort from The Mars Volta is going to be different from the previous four. After a long, drawn-out (more than a minute) note slowly breaks way to acoustic plucking, in comes a kinder, gentler Cedric Bixler Zavala who has given up a good bit of his screaming in favor of singing. Teflon has more of the singing, but this time it's over soundscapes more than strumming or the frantic guitar playing of old. So, is all of this good? Yes, in the way that it shows a different side of the band and gives them room to grow. They haven't abandoned the idea of seven-minute epics, but they have diversified the portfolio a bit. "Cotopaxi" brings in more of a '70s groove to it with more energized singing.
The Bad: OK, I'll admit it – when he slows it down, Bixler Zavala is not the greatest of singers. For the first part of "Since We've Been Wrong," it sounded like he had a cold, but all that nasal drip went away once the music soaked in enough.
The Verdict: The band has changed up its style a bit without losing any of its identity. The last disc was on my "Best of 2008" list, and this one is likely to make my "Best of 2009" selections.