The Mars Volta take Manhattan

Bedlam at Terminal 5

This was all very, very easy to ­dismiss, and many did. But while that reaction is justifiable, if you've spent the last year praising Battles while continuing to heap opprobrium on these dudes, that's entirely a matter of mar­keting. Their own deliberately obtuse marketing, but still.

That I can roundly mock a band in one breath and vehemently defend it in the next is a distinct Mars Volta charm. They are a rare beast indeed, a brazen and volatile monolith with no filter, no shame, no sense of decorum and little sympathy for those who can't wrap their heads around it, be they fans of that other band or fans of those other records or fans of that song they just played. You're either with them or against them, which makes them easy to deride but hard to ­disrespect.

So you can't interpret Goliath's relative restraint as a concession, but there's undeniable restraint nonetheless: The cover illustration is much less preposterous than usual, there are as many tunes under three minutes as over nine, the goofy song titles are mostly one-worders, at least, and there's no bullshit meandering to dilute the colossal sludge-rock thunderbolts and epochal drum fills.

"Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt": e-mail spam or Mars Volta title?
"Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt": e-mail spam or Mars Volta title?

Tracks therein that I first painfully absorbed during that punishing Terminal 5 show sound fabulous now — "Goliath" is the jam, a whirlwind compendium of the sort of lascivious Funkadelic riffs someone like the Red Hot Chili Peppers would neuter, water down and saddle with a really unconscionable title like "Hump de Bump." It's a taxing record, tough to digest in one sitting — or even really one afternoon — but with a little effort on your part, it might really entrance you.

Preferably in smaller doses, while seated in the comfort of your own home, when all that titanic self-pleasure might condescend to allow the listener a little pleasure, too.

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