At The Drive In had made quite an impression on me in the late ‘90s and early 2000’s; this was further cemented on the few occasions I saw them live; their angular and abrasive punk rock sound was brought to life by the deranged stage antics and crazed dance moves of frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and lead guitarist Omar Rodriguez Lopez. They seemed to be on the brink of world domination when they announced their acrimonious split in 2001 due to relentless hype, high expectations, creative differences, heavy drug use and a general disdain towards touring and the aggressive dancing often associated with hardcore punk shows.
When the The Mars Volta appeared soon after, their fanbase and the music press alike were rapidly divided upon the release of their first EP and debut album, “De-Loused In The Comatorium.” Certain critics hailed their courageous effort at fusing traditionally opposing genres such as punk and progressive rock, while others recoiled in horror at the band melding influences from Bossa Nova, psychedelia and free jazz into a seemingly impenetrable, labyrinthine fever-dream that was miles away from At The Drive In’s sound.
What I hear is the work of true artists looking deep inside themselves at a moment of transition. They gather profound memories and create stirring moods; they contemplate life and express grief over the deaths of one close friend and one former band member prior to the recording session in startling manner.
The production is a dream; the shimmering guitars, crazed vocal effects and mesmerising percussive patterns are mixed perfectly into an intoxicating, cathartic atmosphere that doesn’t really sound like anyone or anything else. Sure, they’ve evidently been listening to a lot of King Crimson, CAN, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd but this is a truly wondrous album from which one can reap immense rewards with repeated listens.
Written by @khaled_lowe
The Mars Volta
“De-Loused In The Comatorium”
Gold Standard Laboratories 2003
This is a repost for anyone who didn’t see this from my personal page before the launch of The Pick. Apologies if you’re re-reading!