Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Old Money

[Stones Throw; 2009]

Styles: progresso rockisimo
Others: At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Sparta, De Facto, Jeremy Michael Ward, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quartet

I’m going to level with y’all: Reviewing CDs is a thankless task that can make a guy feel like a number, a drone, a cubicle-filling piece of pooh-paste not worthy of shining the secondhand shoes of the indie heroes whose work is being evaluated. If you tear an artist’s work to shreds, your conscience starts sounding off; if you don’t take a record seriously enough, the bands/labels start sounding off; and if you laud an artist too much, you come off like the worst kind of ballgagger: the type who will suckle in print.

You also take the daily risk committing the ultimate sin where lack of foresight is concerned: Failing to recognize a work of genius (also known as the Siskel-hating-on-Star-Wars Syndrome), which to a large extent will determine whether you’re forgotten with the other losers who confidently panned Blood on the Tracks upon its release or if you’re penning the liner notes for the latest Dylan retrospective (of which there will be millions).

I only bring up these soul-crushing inevitabilities to illustrate just how valuable a Killer Record can be for the reviewer psyche. I can say from personal experience that my tank has been close to empty numerous times, my vehicle of inspiration running on fumes when suddenly a new diversion presents itself and I’m back on board, ready to sign on for five more years of too-too-too much music and insulting deadline e-mails from a boss (Mr P) that would just as soon rape me and leave me for dead in the Minneapolis snow as look at my first draft.

My reasons for rambling so uncontrollably revolve around my absolute adoration for Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’ latest. As a HUGE fan of The Mars Volta’s early work circa Tremulant and a devout detractor of their recent zany-first, quality-second albums, this comes with no small modicum of surprise.

Not only that, R-Lo’s solo albums to this point have been more in the vein of ‘interesting’ than ‘arresting.’ I mean, it was nice watching Rodriguez-Lopez’ collab with Can’s Damo Suzuki skyrocket in value mere months after I bought it, and last year’s Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fungus was crammed with enough firecracker ideas to blow up not only my brain, but the inch-thick casing surrounding it, but... hearing this large-a leap from the R-to-the-L, in the midst of a 2008 wherein he created four separate full-length albums (not including Volta output), is so pure and downright magical that I can’t help but let my enthusiasm wiggle its way onto TMT in spades.

Hell, I even considered slapping this bitch with a ‘5’ grade, a distinction I didn’t even hand out in 2008 and hadn’t planned to in ’09 (though I might have had I evaluated Merriweather Post Pavillion). The real difference-maker here is the sudden sense of restraint + skill = the sublime; I honestly don’t think Rodriguez-Lopez’ past compositions can touch the organic, instinctive, couldn’t-imagine-it-any-other-way brushstrokes he is swiping across the page here. He’s been a scion in a long lineage of highly skilled rock guitarists since his days in At The Drive-In -- his ability to do whatever, whenever he wants with his six-string is the one thing no one should have the balls to question.

The queries concerning his ability to cohere his wild imagination into worthwhile prog blasts are a little tougher to dispute -- that’s why Old Money is such a welcome surprise. Nary a fragment of the 10 compositions sounds even a bit out of place; new ideas are explored, and not at the expense of the listener; and, perhaps best of all, a mongrel of a talent finally lets his instincts to ROCK REALLY FUCKING HARD take over. Not having to hear the squealing voice of his counterpart Cedric Bixler, despite its solid merits, is a nice change too, if only because it allows the songs room to expand and contract on their own volition.

While counting Old Money, the listener never feels like a detached observer, more like a hand accompanying a group of spelunkers on an extra-deep-ramming expedition -- and it’s dark, motherfucker, it’s dark. From opening track “The Power of Myth,” it’s impossible to defend one’s ears against the immediate barrage of drums that jump in and out of meter, thick, rich bass tones and guitar lines smoother than rich, creamery butter.

This is an Important record that I genuinely believe will be even more highly regarded in the future, once the temporary varnishes of our specific period of time rub off and expose the lesser (but more popular) musical short-term pleasures for the two-pump-chump acts they are. If you skip out on the chance to finally hear Rodriguez-Lopez take modern prog higher than many believed it could soar, let it be because you’re an ardent Sparta stumper and not because you find his Mars Volta excursions too more-is-more-ish; to avoid this based on the past alone is like turning down free Money (and we got this recession on!).

1. The Power Of Myth
2. How To Bill The Bilderberg Group
3. Population Council's Wet Dream
4. Private Fortunes
5. Trilateral Commission As Dinner Guests
6. 1921
7. Family War Funding (Love Those Rothschilds)
8. Vipers In The Bosom
9. I Like The Rockefellers' First Two Records, But After That..

10. Old Monday

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