It's a well-established fact that bands put out albums far less frequently than they used to. (The Beatles, for instance, made more than a dozen in seven years.) And yet The Mars Volta doesn't get much attention for having released one album per year, like clockwork, since its 2003 debut De-Loused In The Comatorium. Granted, prolificacy is one of the least attention-grabbing things about The Mars Volta. Singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez have used the platform they built as leaders of post-hardcore legend At The Drive-In as a launching pad; they've since gone intergalactic with a sleek, questing form of prog.
The problem with The Bedlam In Goliath, the band's fourth full-length, isn't that it shares prog's overproduction or pretense. Rather, it's a bit undercooked. The band's frenzied rate of output seems to have trampled any inner editor, and the result is a splat of concepts and virtuosity that never coheres. The disc's opener, "Aberinkula," is a billion toy laser guns going off at once, while the ballad "Tourniquet Man" degenerates from stiff to silly as Bixler-Zavala piles on the Mickey Mouse effects and tries to wade through remedial free-jazz. Rodriguez-Lopez isn't off the hook: In "Ilyena," he's responsible for perhaps the unfunkiest funk ever made, and his solos throughout Bedlam buzz and nag without eloquence or equilibrium. Now might be a good time for The Mars Volta to step back, take some time off, and actually think their mighty ideas through before chucking them all against the wall at once.