Monday, June 22, 2009

"Octahedron" - Mars Volta's 5th

The ground is blue, the sky is a burning red. In the blue earth, you come across an eight sided object. The Octahedron. As soon as you touch it, a low electronic hum fills your mind. You recognize the sound your hearing as a precursor to commuincation with this object. Suddenly the object begins to levitate in front of you, and each side of the octahedron tells you their story. The last side of the octahedron tells a tale so harrowing and so wrought with despair and suffering that, when the story ends, you die.

That is the story I envisioned on my first listen to The Mars Volta's new album "Octahedron." In this, their 5th studio album, they've taken what might be called a more subtle approach... sort of. A lot more acoustic sounds, and a lot more moments of calm and quiet compared to their last album, "The Bedlam in Goliath." I say "subtle," but it is subtle in a very Mars Volta kind of way. As I described in the story above, the last track on the album brings a lot of action and sound. It ends in such a way that it feels like all the energy left in this Octahedron creature was expelled to bring you it's story. A story so powerful that it kills you at the end. That's one thing I love about all Mars Volta albums. The last tracks on the album are often, thematically, very much akin to the final act of a narrative. It is a sort of summation of what you have heard so far, with an extra dose of crazy heaped over the top. This album also continues to challenge my idea of when I should be bobbing my head to the music. Some parts seem as if they had a solid 4/4 chord progression but then added an extra upbeat on the end, just barely throwing you off. I got lost in the beat a couple times, but as soon as I started to pay attention to the snare drum, I found my way back. The snare drum was almost a safety line tied around my waste as I floated and spun around in the madness of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's creativity. I know the odd time signatures can be off putting to some, but I find it incredibly refreshing. I feel like the album, the music, and The Mars Volta are engaging me, rather than just allowing me to be a passive receiver. It makes me feel like they respect me as a listener, and for that, they will always get my support on release day. I can't wait to keep digging into this one. Marvelous.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Around Town: Wildly Innapropriate?

The billboard reads: "Child swallows toy. Gets cool X-Ray for show and tell. Great emergency care changes the story. Sparrow."

I was walking home from work one day and I saw the above billboard. It almost instantly struck me as innapropriate. At first I thought maybe I was just acting on some inbred-American knee jerk reaction to complain about everything. The more I thought it about it though, especially from a parents perspective, the billboard seemed callous. A child swallowing, or especially, chocking on a toy strikes me as a poor subject to make light of especially has a health care facility. If my child had been choking on a toy, and was then saved by a medical team, I would not think "Well at least we got this cool X-Ray." And a point my friend Dave brought up, I wouldn't want a kid to see the billboard and think "If I choke on my toy I can get a cool X-Ray." Were I actually a parent maybe I would think that children and the subjects surrounding them don't need to be treated so delicately, but I'm not a parent, and this billboard frustrates me. Maybe to hospital personnel, who have seen and experienced it all, these things don't seem that dramatic, but to the general public, I think those medical emergencies are still frightening.