One thing i don't understand is how a lot of people who really liked De-loused, also love Frances, but less so the newer stuff...
I would say that the new album is closer to De-loused than Frances the mute was, just becasue of the fact that the songs are 'songs' rather than 12 minute instrumental 'journeys'.
The simple answer is that I prefer listening to "12 minute instrumental journeys" as you put it, more than traditional songs that I may or may not have heard similar things to before.
I am not saying TMV's newer songs are traditional, I am just saying I prefer the atmospheric pieces, with grooving going on between the drums and the bass (while the guitar and/or vox makes chilling or atmospheric sounds). To me, that is where I've had golden moments with The Mars Volta.