Song of the Week – Pattern Against User, At the Drive In


One of the most popular SotW posts I’ve written was for “L’Via L’Viaquez” by the Mars Volta (August 30, 2014). It has received over 800 hits on this Rock ‘n’ Roll Remnants blog.

The Mars Volta rose out of the ashes of another punk band called At the Drive In, so it was only a matter of time before I posted about them. AtDI recently reunited, 17 years after their initial break up (and released a new album called in•ter a•li•a) making now as good a time as any to delve into their history and music.

In the early 90s, guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez met singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala at an El Paso punk club called the Dead End. Cedric formed several bands before recruiting Jim Ward and Omar to form AtDI. Over the next few years and multiple line ups (Ward joined and left the band several times) the group settled with the original three plus the rhythm section of bassist Paul Hinojos and drummer Tony Hajjar.

Fighting over artistic direction, exhaustion from relentless touring and the scourge of excessive drug use all converged to cause the band to call it quits in 2001.

Today’s SotW is “Pattern Against User” from AtDI’s 2000 album Relationship of Command.

According to Wikipedia, “Relationship of Command is now seen as one of the most influential rock albums of the decade, receiving accolades such as being ranked 47th in the 50 Greatest Albums of the 21st century in Kerrang!, number 83 on Spin Magazine’s 100 Greatest Albums 1985–2005, as well as number 90 on MTV2‘s greatest albums ever list.”

The new album has the band back in form and is worth checking out on Spotify.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – L’Via L’Viaquez, The Mars Volta


Six or seven years ago I was listening to a lot of music by the modern prog rock band The Mars Volta. The song that really captured my attention was “L’Via L’Viaquez” from their well-regarded sophomore effort, Frances the Mute (2005). And that’s today’s SotW.

Frances the Mute
is a concept album, of sorts, based on a diary band member Jeremy Ward found in a car he was repossessing. The book told of the author’s search for his biological parents, something Ward could relate to.

The album’s lyrics – part English, part Spanish — were written by Cerdic Bixler-Zavala and the music by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, who also acted as the album’s producer.

It weaves a story about Vismund Cygnus, son of Frances and the product of a rape. He was adopted and is now determined to find out where he comes from.

“L’Via L’Viaquez” is Frances’ sister (Cygnus’ aunt) who witnessed the rape. Miranda is their mother. There’s much more to the story but you’ll have to reach you own conclusions about it.

If you don’t know Spanish (I don’t) there are many translations on the internet to help you understand the lyrics. Here’s a sample:

L’via, hija de miranda
Tu apellido se cambio’
L’via, sin ojos me quieres dar
Una historia sin mi madre
Solo tengo que decirte
El dolor de noche dice
Solo se quedo’ el vestido
Le lave’ la sangre

L’via, Miranda’s daughter
Your last name changed
L’via, without eyes you want to give me
A history without my mother
I just have to tell you
The night pain tells
Alone the dress kept
I washed the blood off

This cut isn’t for everyone; I have to tell you that up front. It’s a very challenging 12+ minute piece of music that has more stylistic layers than a Kim Kardashian wedding cake. There’s a healthy dose of Santana, a strong hint of Led Zeppelin, a bit of Chili Peppers funk (John Frusciante provides the first two guitar solos) and a sprinkle of Can.’s Jared W. Dillon wrote a very descriptive synopsis of the song’s structure:

Quiet skipping of a record is heard for 40 seconds until John Frusicante comes in with a huge rock riff. Then we break into some classic sounding heavy metal with Spanish lyrics coming from Cedric. While some of Cedric’s slurs and such are not perfect, he still uses Spanish pretty greatly throughout the song. The pretty normal sounding song sticks the same until about 2:40 when it breaks into a small piano beat that has an extremely Latin feel to it. Cedric starts to sing in English in this section sprouting off phrases like ‘With every clamor that they mine’ and ‘I will never forget who I’m looking for’ After the short interlude we come back to some heavy soloing on John’s behalf that brings the song back to the Latin rock feel. There are no changes in this section from the previous except for the solo that started it off and so at around 4:53 it breaks back into the piano Latin section. Cedric’s lyrics have changed here but they are still in English, and eventually he reprises the ‘I will never forget who I’m looking for’ section.

After a minute of piano play we go to another solo who is by Omar this time I believe, and instead of returning back to the similar rock beat of the past two sections we are given a rousing drum beat and some very deep singing from Cedric in Spanish. Soon after the Spanish is complete Cedric breaks into English saying, ‘When all the worms come/Crawling out of your head, Telling you/ Don’t be afraid’ The drumbeat eventually breaks into a short solo and then a gong sounds off the return to the piano section. The reprise of the piano sections is different than the previous two though as it has the sampling of people talking behind it. Although it has this new effect the same chorus is returned but towards the end the vocals of Cedric start to be drowned with effects.

Following Cedric’s vocal arrangement the famous pianist Larry Harlow plays a piano solo, with the help of Omar providing some back up soloing in response to the keys. This goes on for until 11:03 when the song drowns out and we hear a highly distorted Cedric spouting out the chorus of ‘And with everybody that I find/And with every clamor that they mine, I won’t forget who I’m looking for/ Oh mother help me I’m looking for’. After the ending of the small vocal solo, a quiet squeaking is heard that takes us into the next track.

It’s a bit of a challenge, but stick with this and I think you’ll like (or at least appreciate) it.

Enjoy… until next week.