tmv_octcoverDear Omar Rodriguez-López, is everything all right at home? Let’s face it: something is wrong. Look at your newest concoction, The Mars Volta’s Octahedron: a less-than-CD-capacity run time (50 minutes this time around), song titles that don’t force the listener to consult a dictionary and/or encyclopedia to understand (well, some anyway), no song over eight minutes, actual song structures… …Well, of course, restraint was the next logical move. It was the only move. Seriously, you can’t go crazier than The Bedlam In Goliath. Such an endeavor would put TMV somewhere near the bastard child of Slayer and Tool. If Goliath was a hatchet – a blunt tool with which to strike for maximum damage and minimal effort – then Octahedron is a surgical laser – its adversative counterpart, a tool of precision used for the most delicate of sonic attacks. And the band can’t get more obtuse than Frances The Mute, lest its sound move exponentially closer to the prog version of Metal Machine Music. So, yeah, TMV toned it down for the new record. And rightly so.TMV have been ascribed as the modern-day Pink Floyd from the outset, but that’s never been wholly true. Pink Floyd always had a logical structure and a journey of the mind (yes, I did just say that). TMV had structure, but in order to find it you needed the thought process of Jackson Pollock. Volta’s always been more extreme, more obtuse, more everything (aside from pretension, something no band will ever wrestle away from Roger Waters’ fingers) than Floyd ever was. That’s been both a good and bad thing for TMV, depending on who you ask. But with Octahedron, the characterization is actually accurate – and to a ridiculously particular degree: it’s The Mars Volta’s version of Wish You Were Here. Before you get upset with my absurd name-dropping, hear me out. You’ve got the acoustic tracks (‘With Twilight As My Guide,’ the first half of ‘Since We’ve Been Wrong’), the out-and-out mellow vibe not duplicated in either catalogue (‘Copernicus’), and an air of transcendence-by-way-of-despair isolationism (the appropriately titled ‘Desperate Graves’).And like Here’s ‘Have A Cigar,’ ‘Cotopaxi’ is the oddball. It’s the lone song that retains the breakneck speed of Goliath. While it is a rather fun and vigorous three-minute hurricane, it doesn’t belong with this collection. It’s more like a Goliath B-side than a fitting album track of Octahedron. The track apparently only exists to quell the fears of fans that TMV totally pussed out after Goliath. No, guys, it hasn’t given up. It’s just trying something different. Remain calm and put down the inhalers.Restraint, however, does not mean that TMV doesn’t take sudden left turns on occasion; it’s just done to make a point or emphasize a passage. ‘Copernicus,’ for example, features out-of-nowhere programming half way through that acts as a series of digital tumbleweeds. Better still is the coda of album closer ‘Luciforms’ which contains what is perhaps the only Mars Volta of old on this entire escapade: a wah-wah-saturated guitar solo freakout that spirals and dances around Thomas Pridgen’s furious kit-bashing. It’s beautiful. More importantly, though, it’s telling. It suggests that while Octahedron is a departure from the Mars Volta’s previous exploits, it doesn’t mean that it can’t “return” sometime in the future. But while it has meditatively detoured, we might as well enjoy the trip.85% The Mars Volta on Myspace