Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Mars Volta
ULU, London

Live music is all about the spectacle. Let’s be honest here, when it comes down to it, as long as the band sounds alright, all we actually want is to be entertained. We’re not here to appreciate the finer points of a diminished chord, we’re here because we want the adrenaline kick, we want to feel those endorphins tearing through our system. We’re here because we want to be surprised, because we want to feel alive.

Which is just as well, because right now I’ve got absolutely no idea what’s happening onstage. It’s all a complete blur. Omar is flagellating himself with his guitar. There’s a tank of a man jumping on his keyboard. The bassist hasn’t stopped spinning round for the entire set. Somewhere in the midst of the staccato rhythms, hidden beneath Cedric’s pained yelps as he hurls himself around, there may even be a song. It may be called ‘Cut That City’, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

The Mars Volta are like watching chaos theory unravelling. They’re like the Make Up having an epileptic fit, or the frantic garage punk of the MC5 terrorising a space-rock jazz quintet, kind of rama-lama-Sun-Ra-ra if you will. But then, I don’t care if you won’t. The Mars Volta certainly don’t care if you won’t. They’re not playing for you. If they were, they would never have split up At The Drive-In, and you wouldn’t be running for the bar with a scared look on your face. Fuck doing it for the kids – Omar and Cedric are quite obviously doing this for themselves.

Normally that would be a crime. It’s just not punk rock, is it? But incredibly, the Mars Volta get away with every excess imaginable. As uncompromising as they may have become, they’re still performers. While there is a very definite chance that they’ll stick their head up their arse and get their afro caught in their pubic hair, there’s never going to be any risk of the Mars Volta being boring.

They may not be so much At The Drive-In as at the drive-through spaz-jazz gymnastics team avant-prog wank spectacle, but at least it’s the spectacle that we had been hoping for.