Review Summary: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez pulls his head out of his ass and makes the best record of his solo career.
Like a dung beetle, intently and instinctively rolling up crap, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez seemingly has an insatiable and fanatical urge to release an obnoxious amount of music, regardless of the group, or even the quality. Aside from his works with The Mars Volta, the past couple of years ol' Omar, as a solo artist, as been shoveling out album after album, in what can only be a contrived, ostentatious attempt at metaphorically blowing his brains out onto some score sheets (as if he even uses score sheets). He's even gone on record to say that he saves his best work for Volta, meaning that even he knows that his solo work isn't quite up to snuff, and honestly, we didn't need the guy to tell us as much. That being said, every so often, under the mammoth piles of half-baked ideas and acid-laced musical freak-outs, Omar nails it.
Case in point: Xenophanes
is the culmination of everything that every single Omar Rodriguez-Lopez album wishes it could be. Containing his signature sound and personality, the album is the penultimate realization of the man's unconventional music. By all rights, the album shouldn't work (after all, this is the same man who made Cryptomnesia
). However, it's got something his other releases have been missing, something truly vital--coherency. Yep that's right, Omar has actually created a coherent, sensible solo album. That is the absolute best part of Xenophanes
--it's crazy, chaotic, and disorganized, but it all comes together, creating a solid, well produced piece of music.
is a hell of a lot of fun. It's an LSD infused psychedelia trip with heavy doses of jazz infused salsa, masquerading as some mystical progressive samba piece. Sure it's weird, hell, even off putting, but it's an album that requires the listener to release their inhibitions, and dive right on in. It paints vivid imagery, much like the cover depicts. For example, in the track "Ojo al Cristo de Plata, one can easily image Omar making sweet, passionate Spanish love to a guitar shaped woman (or perhaps, a woman shaped guitar). It's sensual and seductive, as Omar duets with the beautiful vocals of Ximena Serinan. However, this quickly divulges into a much more menacing track, with a cloud of fuzz and groove becoming prevalent. It's as if Omar left this woman's side, growing to be one hundred feet tall, about to squash a number of regular sized vikings
. It's beautiful in it's frenetic ways, even if you can't makes heads or tails of what is actually going on.
It's got mood, style, and personality, but how are things on the musical side" Well, to put it simply, Omar is in top form on Xenophanes
, taking the duties of lead guitarist, producer, and even lead vocalist. While he leaves a bit to be desired in respect to his vocal performance, what he likes in singing prowess, he more than makes up for with his sublime guitar skills. While in the past, especially on previous solo releases, Omar was apt to pound away on the fret board, as if he was attempting to put out a fire , or perhaps even start one. Yet on Xenophanes
, he seems more collected, allowing an internal groove
to take the place of mindless wankery. Every strum, every chord, and every salsa-fied break down has a purpose, making the album free (mostly) of unnecessary filler. Thomas Pridgen makes his swan song on the album, as Xenophanes
is the final Volta-related work to feature him. For those who haven't heard, Pridgen is something of a prodigy on the set, and on here it's truly apparent. Whether it be fast and frenetic, or slow and methodical, Pridgen knows what he's doing, and he's absolutely a high point of the album, bringing more than enough energy to the mix.
Aside from being a really well done piece of music, Xenophanes
doubles as a great story. Conceptually, the album is somewhat confusing, but if enough time is invested into it, it can be a fantastic way to enjoy the work. It tells of the journey of life, death, and re-birth, told through the perspective of an egotistical casework, who falls in love with her client. After viewing her life from eleven points, she is able to grow and mature, leaving her judgmental bitch-ways behind her, and embrace her new found self. It toys with the ideas of fractured reality and shamanic rituals, as well as the experiences of Xenophanes, as he explored western philosophy. It's pretty deep, and exceptionally intricate, even if it takes quite a bit of concentration, and translation, if Spanish isn't your native tongue.
, even though a little overlong and bloated, is Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's finest solo album to date, touching upon everything he's been doing right, and disposing all the filler that's been hanging around like a bad smell. It's fun, groovy, and has a surprising amount of depth. For those who jumped off this guy's bandwagon years ago, Xenophanes
is an absolute joy, and an album well worth checking out.