You probably already know the story by now–at the height of their success, El Paso’s At the Drive-In goes on an “indefinite hiatus” and ends up as two separate bands — Sparta and The Mars Volta. Sparta released their album first, putting out a by-the-book indie/power rock record that’s pretty good, but sounds like what ATDI would have sounded like if they actually were an emo band, not just described as such. Fans of ATDI weren’t disappointed, as Sparta didn’t drift too far from their former band’s formula.
Then came The Mars Volta. After the release of their Tremulant E.P. on GSL, it was apparent that Omar and Cedric were the freakier, druggier side of ATDI. And now, a year later their full length is finally released. And damn, is it good.
De-loused in the Comatorium is a concept record based on “the life and times of Julio Venegas”. Venegas was a friend of the afro’d duo of Cedric and Omar, who struggled through drug addiction and eventually took his own life in the mid- nineties. The record follows Venegas’ journeys from the time period of his drug-induced coma until his eventual suicide.
Produced by Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Public Enemy etc.), De-loused is a swirling prog-rock journey into the dark psyche of The Mars Volta. Don’t let the term “prog” scare you, though. This is progressive rock filtered through a punk rock background, not Styx. With ten connected tracks totaling over an hour in length, this record explores the dizzying highs and gut-wrenching lows experienced by its protagonist. The drums come in bursts of Latin beats that lay the rhythm for Omar’s Zeppelin and Mozart inspired guitar tracks. Flea plays bass on the record, and it works surprisingly well, mostly because there’s no slap-funk sound to be found. Keyboards and multiple sound manipulations add depth to the spacey feel of the record.
And then there are the vocals. Cedric pushes his falsetto stylings to new levels as he screams and wails the pains of his fallen friend.
This is not your three minute songs punk record. Elements of jazz, salsa, prog, dub and punk are melded together to form a soundtrack for loss, sorrow and rebirth. Is there some meandering free-form wankery? Yes. Is it a bit pretentious? Yes. But is it good? You bet your ass it is.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
At the Drive In – Relationship of Command
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti