The other night I was listening to an old playlist I’d made a while ago, and amongst other music The Mars Volta track ‘Ouroboros’ burst into my eardrums like an explosion. It was a bit late and I was a bit high and it happens to be one of my favourite TMV tracks, but fuck me, right there and then it blew me out of my chair! You see, I’ve been a little bit in mourning since they broke up. I was gutted when I heard the news, if not too surprised, and since writing about it in these pages I’ve not really listened to them very much at all. Instead I’ve been listening to other stuff, the new QOTSA, the new NIN, lots of Puscifer and all kinds of other stuff. Anything but TMV, because like a break up with a long term girlfriend, the pain was all too fresh. I needed to get over it, time to accept the reality. Yeah I know that all sounds a bit melodramatic and I do say it with tongue half pressed in cheek, but they were my all time favourite band and I was pretty choked. I like a lot of music, I like a lot of styles of music, but if there was one band that encapsulated everything I like about music in one place, it was The Mars Volta. Hearing that track at that moment, reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with the band in the first place, the brutal power, the sublime majesty, driving bass lines that dripped with soul and funk and feel, frenetic drum lines that seemed to defy reason all interwoven with insane guitar licks that made no sense but made perfect sense. Hearing that track out of the blue just served to stir up all the regret and frustration I felt from the fact that my favourite band were no more. So much in fact that I nearly tweeted! I didn’t cos it’s pointless but anyway, I was gutted all over again that they’d broken up.
And what for? For Bosnian Rainbows. What a pity. I am a huge Omar Rodriguez fan. I pretty much own everything he’s ever put out. For me the guy is some kind of musical genius, like a modern day Frank Zappa in terms of work ethic and creativity. The man is prolific. You get the feeling just as you did with the legendary Frank that music is as much Omar’s life as is breathing, eating and the need to dump. And so it really pains me to say that as far as Bosnian Rainbows is concerned, I just don’t get it. I really wanna like them. I try really hard to like them. But it just ain’t happening. And I think I know the problem, in fact I know I know the problem – it’s the singer Teri Gender Bender. Personally, I think she sucks. I mean, she proper stinks! Her lyrics (If she writes them herself) are woeful. Her delivery is amateurish at best. Melody lines? Forget it. People talk about her incredible stage presence almost in a way that seems like they are trying to deflect from her shortcomings in all other areas, but to me her stage presence seems like she is acting weird for the sake of acting weird. I just don’t get it. I saw a clip on YouTube the other day, I forget the song (it was very forgettable) but there she was wailing away in the foreground like a really bad Debbie Harry, stomping around like she had a bad dose of piles, while Omar was flailing around in the background seemingly out of all proportion to what was actually being played, almost as if he was trying to convince himself that he was ‘into’ the sound they were making. Now I am sure that he was, but that’s just how it came across to me, insincere. Of course I understand the need for musicians to change and evolve, it’s natural. I accept that the time of The Mars Volta has probably/possibly passed. Their last album was my least favourite although it still towers above BR’s record in every way possible. And I understand that there are probably a few people who like the direction Omar has taken with his new band, that’s fair enough – I will never knock anybody for liking any particular music. I guess my problem is that I am still disappointed that the problems Cedric and Omar had with each other couldn’t be resolved and that Omar’s new project, for me, doesn’t come close to the quality of anything he has done before. As a long time fan, I am disappointed but I guess shit happens?
What about Cedric? Well he’s working on his new project called ZavalaZ, which I think is due to be released early next year, and actually if there is one good thing that’s come from the TMV break-up it’s seeing Cedric emerge from of the shadow of Omar to grow as a fully fledged songwriter himself. There are some cuts on YouTube of his new band which sound nothing like anything he’s been associated with before but on first listen, sound to me to be pretty good. You can judge for yourself below. In the meantime Omar always says that he never closes the door on anything he’s done in the past, he simply opens new ones. So there is the chance that The Mars Volta could come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before. I really hope they do. Because when you hear the beauty of tracks like ‘Empty Vessels…’ and the raw power and energy of tracks like ‘Molochwalker’ from their last record, it seems pretty clear to me that as a band, as a partnership, as a joint creative force, if they can just sort out their shit they still have a whole lot more to offer. I can but hope!
Bosnian Rainbows – Worthless
ZavalaZ – Lacewing
The Mars Volta – Empty Vessels Make The Loudest Sound
The Mars Volta – Ouroboros