Review Summary: "Xenophanes" is an adventure through space, and the journey is well worth it.
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has been widely praised for his hectic, yet innovative songwriting and guitarwork. His solo albums feature a wide range of experimentation, whether it be tinkering with effects or constructing ambient soundscapes, even accomplishing both at times. While the uniqueness of his previous efforts has been celebrated, also many have hoped for a more cohesive piece of work. With one look at the album artwork, it's evident that this album must feature something interesting, and some might be surprised to find that Xenophanes is a very solid musical piece.
After an spacey intro coined "Azoemia", the lively musicality of the album kicks in with track two, "Mundo De Ciegos" (which directly translates to World Of The Blind). This track is a prime example of Xenophanes in its prime form- enticing all types of music into the same dimension, nudging them together.. The chorus has catchy vocals, an example of how Omar's singing on this album holds up considerably well. Many vocal hooks are extremely memorable, and it's hard to resist the urge to sing along with the melody, even if you can't quite understand what's being sung.
The instrumentation is pulled off exquisitely on Xenophanes; the introduction to "Amanita Verosa"' will leave a guitar geek salivating, and the drumming throughout the album is simply flawless. "Oremos" begins as a bundle of energy with drumrolls galore, before transitioning to a slow-tempoed, atmospheric ballad. "Desarraigo" might be one of my favorites from the album, because of its creatively syncopated drum beat that meshes with the other instruments quite well. Then, halfway through the song a 7/4 time signature is played naturally; time signatures that could be called awkward to play are beautifully executed, also in songs like "Asco Que Conmueve..." and "Ojo Al Cristo De Plata".
Also, "Sangrando Detrás De Los Ojos" may only be a transition, but is actually the strongest on Xenophanes. It's an instrumental, and it lasts barely over two minutes before fading out, but it's gorgeous. It comprises of a dreamy guitar solo over a spacey background, and the mood that it creates is just an extraordinary one.
However, for me the biggest disappointment was the repetitiveness of the final three songs. It's understood that these songs were obviously meant to sound similar, given the same chorus and whatnot, but maybe this was done too well. The concepts touched on in these songs are spacey, alternative, and more of a Mexican feel than the other songs on the album, but after hearing the same chord progressions throughout the three songs, it gets old. "Flores De Cizaña" at least has a variation for the second section, but "Maria Celeste" goes back and follows "Perder El Arte...". As the end of the CD, this can be frustrating to somebody who was looking forward to a different type of sound. I don't hear about this from many other fans of the album, but I doubt that I'm the only one that wasn't left satisfied when Xenophanes shut off.
Yet, this album is what it is. Given its flaws, I can affirm that Xenophanes is a worhwhile buy, and its replayability is more than most albums of today. The Greek god Xenophanes claimed to "be writing for future generations", and perhaps this is what Omar Rodriguez-Lopez wanted to accomplish with this release, making a new type of music for his fans to appreciate.