Gemini II

Frances the Mute

Frances the Mute is the second studio album by progressive rock band The Mars Volta released in the US on March 1, 2005. The album's lyrics often jump from Spanish to English. It displays a deep jazz influence while infusing Latin flavor into many songs. Originally to be titled Sarcophagus., Frances the Mute sold 123,000 copies in its opening week and has sold 465,000 copies as of September 2006. The album made multiple "Best of" lists at the end of 2005.

The artwork was done by Storm Thorgerson, who created the cover for the previous album, De-Loused in the Comatorium.

History

Jeremy Ward, audio artist for The Mars Volta until his death, had previously worked as a repo man. One day, Ward discovered a diary in the backseat of a car he was repossessing, and began to note the similarities between his life and that of the author — most notably, that they had both been adopted. The diary told of the author's search for his biological parents, with the way being pointed by a collection of people, their names being the basis for each named track of Frances the Mute. Ward was in the process of completing it at the time of his death.

In December 2004, a full copy of Frances the Mute was leaked to the Internet from the vinyl version. The rip was of poor quality. Encoded as a 96 kbit/s MP3, other versions were reencoded to 192 kbit/s WMA from the source mp3, resulting in even worse audio quality. Gold Standard Laboratories issued a statement decrying the Internet release for its subpar sound quality, and suggesting that fans should respect the band's request not to share the leaked music.

The first single, "The Widow", was released in early 2005 and the album Frances the Mute was released on midnight, March 1, 2005, and sold over 100,000 copies within the first week of release, and debuted at number four on the Billboard Album Charts. The title track, "Frances the Mute", which is purportedly meant to be track one on the album and, according to the band, "decodes" the album's story, was not included in the album, and was released on March 14th, 2005, in the United Kingdom. This release was a three set limited edition, containing a single with a live version of "The Widow", played at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on June 13th, and the unreleased title song "Frances the Mute." Also in the collection is a DVD that includes clips from their performance at the Electric Ballroom in London on July 9th, 2003, "The Widow" music video, and the "Televators" music video. Finally, the last item was a 12" single pressed on marble green vinyl including "Frances The Mute" and a live version of "The Widow", released by Gold Standard Labs. Only approximately 10,000 were pressed.

A second single from the album, "L'Via L'Viaquez" was released in June of 2005. Included on this single there was another unreleased song entitled "The Bible and the Breathalyzer".

Frances The Mute debuted at No. 4 on The Billboard 200 and has sold nearly 465,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album was the band's career best at No. 4 until their fourth album The Bedlam in Goliath came out almost 3 years later on the Billboard 200 at No. 3.

The song "L'Via L'Viaquez" will be featured as a playable track in the Guitar Hero World Tour video game.

Sound

Frances the Mute is comparable to The Mars Volta's 2003 release De-Loused in the Comatorium, with its cryptic, verbose lyrics, largely improvised musical interludes and highly layered instrumentals, although the progressive rock influence is stronger on Frances the Mute than it was on De-Loused in the Comatorium. The band's musical influences are more prominent; the guitar solo on "The Widow" seems inspired by classic rock, and much of the album has a psychedelic feel to it. Perhaps due to inspiration from such Pink Floyd albums as Meddle, ambient noise plays a larger role on Frances the Mute than it does on De-Loused in the Comatorium. "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", for example, begins with 4 minutes of coquí frogs singing while a thick soundscape is slowly built from Cedric Bixler-Zavala's voice and synthesizers.

Another distinct aspect of Frances the Mute is that the songs often move through several rather different stages. For example, "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus" begins quietly with a lone acoustic guitar eventually joined by Cedric Bixler-Zavala softly singing. The song then turns into something resembling a chaotic hybrid of funk and metal, with Bixler-Zavala singing some of the lyrics in Spanish. Following this stage of the song, it shifts yet again, this time into a rhythm in 29/16 accompanied by a guitar solo. This stage builds to a crescendo of jazz fusion, followed by a jam in 10/8. The song ends with a barrage of ambient noise and strange sound effects.

Track listing

The finalized track listing had five tracks and was intended to be released on all formats; the vinyl version and online retailer copies (such as those from the iTunes Store) can be found with this track listing. Due to disputes with Universal Records, "Cassandra Gemini" was arbitrarily split into eight tracks on the CD version, taking up tracks 5 through 12, since the band would otherwise only be paid an EP's wages for a 5 track album. The song was not split along its five movements lines, although the entirety of "Sarcophagi" is within the 12th track.

On vinyl, "Cassandra Gemini" was split among two sides, in the middle of "Faminepulse". Each side except the final side of the vinyl ends with a locked groove, repeating either a sound effect or a bar of music endlessly until the needle is lifted. The third side, containing "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore", opens by repeating the 30 seconds of coquí noises that conclude "L'Via L'Viaquez"; this small portion is indexed separately from "Miranda".

Finalized track listing

  1. "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus"1 – 13:02
    • "Sarcophagi"
    • "Umbilical Syllables"
    • "Facilis Descenus Averni"2
    • "Con Safo"
  2. "The Widow" – 5:50
  3. "L'Via L'Viaquez"3 – 12:21
  4. "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" – 13:09
    • "Vade Mecum"4
    • "Pour Another Icepick"
    • "Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma)"
    • "Con Safo"
  5. "Cassandra Gemini"5 – 32:27
    • "Tarantism"
    • "Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream"
    • "Faminepulse"
    • "Multiple Spouse Wounds"
    • "Sarcophagi"

Japanese bonus DVD

  1. "Frances the Mute" – 14:36 (audio only)
    • "In Thirteen Seconds"
    • "Nineteen Sank, While Six Would Swim"
    • "Five Would Grow and One Was Dead"
  2. "Drunkship of Lanterns (live)"
  3. "Cicatriz ESP (live)"
  4. "Televators (live)"

Best Buy Exclusive

The Best Buy version of the album included a download card for one bonus track:

  • "The Widow (Live Acoustic)"

CD pressing

  1. "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus" – 13:02
  2. "The Widow" – 5:51
  3. "L'Via L'Viaquez" – 12:22
  4. "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" – 13:09
  5. "Cassandra Gemini I" – 4:45
  6. "Cassandra Gemini II" – 6:40
  7. "Cassandra Gemini III" – 2:56
  8. "Cassandra Gemini IV" – 7:41
  9. "Cassandra Gemini V" – 4:59
  10. "Cassandra Gemini VI" – 3:48
  11. "Cassandra Gemini VII" – 0:48
  12. "Cassandra Gemini VIII" – 0:53

Vinyl pressing

Side one

  1. "Cygnus....Vismund Cygnus" – 13:02
  2. "The Widow" – 5:51

Side two

  1. "L'Via L'Viaquez" – 12:22

Side three

  1. "[unlisted coquí noises]" – 0:30
  2. "Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore" – 13:10

Side four

  1. "Cassandra Gemini [part one]" – 14:52

Side five

  1. "Cassandra Gemini [part two]" – 17:40

Personnel

Singles

Charts

Album

Year Chart Position
2005 European Top 100 Albums -
2005 The Billboard 200 4
2005 Top Canadian Albums 6
2005 Top Internet Albums 4
2005 UK Albums Chart 23
2005 Norway Albums Chart 1
2005 ARIA Album Chart (Australia) 9
2005 Austrian Album Chart 43

Singles

Year Single Chart Position
2005 "The Widow" European Hot 100 Singles -
2005 "The Widow" Mainstream Rock Tracks 26
2005 "The Widow" Modern Rock Tracks 7
2005 "The Widow" The Billboard Hot 100 95
2005 "The Widow" UK Singles Chart 20

Notes

1 Latin for "Swan"; it is also a constellation.
2 Latin for "The easy descent into Hell".
3 "L'Via L'Viaquez" was misprinted as "L' Via L' Viaquez" on the back and in the liner notes of Frances the Mute.
4 Latin for "Go With Me". A Vade Mecum is also a handbook or something always carried on a person.
5 The official spelling for the song title is "Cassandra Gemini"; despite the typo "Geminni" printed on all parts of the CD packaging, the MusicBrainz database, the vinyl release of the album, and the band's official site all list the track as "Gemini".

References

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