Sunday, December 13, 2009
Pitchfork have reviewed Omar Rodriguez Lopez's album Xenophanes, giving it a 5.7 out of 10...
[pitchfork.com] I am probably the only Pitchfork staffer who unabashedly loves the Mars Volta in all their dumb-assed grandiosity and shameless sprawl. I will suffer through their most meandering fusion-pastiche jams if it means reaching one of their Wagner-by-way-of-Dark Magus climaxes. But even I have to admit there are times where I wish Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-López still had a couple of meat-and-potatoes punk-types around to act as foils. Not to equate the dudes from Sparta with Teo Macero, but at least in the At the Drive-In days you never worried you were footing the bill for someone's wah-wah pedal obsession.
If you're already suspicious of the MV's concept album corpulence, then the idea of a solo project from one of the band's principals, freed from even the loosest commercial restraints, might seem like a definite no-go. And guitarist Omar Rodriguez-López's glut of one-man-band releases this decade-- this is his fifth solo album released in 2009 alone-- have indeed tended toward the sort of free-form/cut-up/noise-for-the-sake-of-it "experiments" that even Volta-lovers might listen to once-and-only-once out of fannish respect. Which is why it's a bit of a surprise that Xenophanes may be the tightest Volta-related product since De-Loused in the Comatorium, back when the tunes were still more riff than solo.
And clearing away the show-off instrumental density-- it's admittedly hard to make claims for the Volta's sense of nuance when 900 people are wailing away in semi-unison, a racket that's often easy to mistake for a Latin-tinged prog band covering The Omen soundtrack-- reveals a delicacy to Omar's music that may surprise. Throw a slo-mo disco beat under the quiet storm of atmospherics in "Ojo al Cristo de Plata", and it could be one of those soft-prog/neo-Balearic dance tunes currently so beloved by young house aesthetes. And "Sangrando Detras de los Ojos" is actually damned beautiful-- a gentle and even-tempoed instrumental, without an attention-straining time-change in earshot-- akin to ATDI's always stirring breakdowns, the very necessary breathers between the band's attempts to knock the sense out of you.
Of course, with typical Volta-ish perversity, "Sangrando" is also the shortest track here. The rest is pretty much what you'd expect: "funk-rock" influenced by the guitar FX dogpile of "Wars of Armageddon" rather than the streamlined party music of "Flash Light" ("Mundo de Ciegos"); portentous melodrama in search of a stadium full of RPG aficionados ("Oremos"); and plinky-plonky electronic miniatures more A-Musik than post-hardcore ("Azoemia"). As always, Rodriguez-López could benefit from an outside editor, since his internal editor seems to have been given his pink slip when ATDI broke up. (There's a sixth solo album arriving before the end of the calendar year.) And only staunch Volta cultists would claim every minute of Xenophanes is worth your precious leisure time. But damn if the best bits don't make an excellent in-car soundtrack for pretending you're on your way to something more dramatic than your day job.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 6:30 AM