Prime Edition

Failed Experiment
AKHIL SOOD  22nd Apr 2012


The Mars Volta

Warner Bros.


The first third of Noctourniquet is Mars Volta at their shiny worst – abrasive, obnoxious, self-indulgent, and completely shameless. The album picks up considerably though, with In Absentia and Imago sticking out. In fact, it's a surprisingly average, 5/10-or-so album – about 10 levels higher than I was expecting. But their frenzied progressive, jazz-sprinkled sound got me thinking. At what point does experimentation cease to be experimentation, turning instead into non-biodegradable trash that gives off a toxic stink when it catches fire?

Does experimentation for its own sake justify overuse? Is that validation enough, or should there be an end goal towards it – of creating a piece of art that stands out not just for its novelty or freshness, but for the aesthetic value it imparts to those who invest time and effort into it? Is being 'different' enough? I'm in the latter camp (that experimentation in and of itself isn't enough); I think these guys belong to the former. But not being part of the band itself, I'm not qualified to judge.

Fans may find their noisy, kids-in-the-playground mess soulful and call it true art. I call it immaculate execution of something completely lacking in vision. But Noctourniquiet made me think. For that, I recommend a few listens, so that you can make your own mind up.

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