Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Old Money
2008 was a busy, busy year in the life of Mars Volta guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. 4 albums of solo-oriented material released, not to mention a Mars Volta disc (The Bedlam In Goliath). It seems criminal not to have touched base with all of them, but no doubt the release garnering the most praise out of the 5 is this, Old Money, the first record Lopez has released in collaboration with Stones Throw Records. Despite critics' drooling over this progressive monster, Old Money and the satisfaction you find within depends almost exclusively on your level of fandom for most of what Lopez has done with The Mars Volta. Which should accurately identify what you're bound to discover within but let's leave room for the exceptions: focused, mostly lacking in stressful bouts of uber-apprehension to comprehend what's going on, and most of all, creatively blending the technical highbrowed nature with accessible, enjoyable songwriting. Staples of early Mars Volta blessedly re-discovered this time around.
There is a loose (as in, it exists in the titles only considering there are no lyrics to carry it) theme running through the album and Old Money combined with song titles such as "How To Bill The Bilderberg Group", "Private Fortunes", "Family War Funding (Love Those Rothschilds)" and the amusing "I Like Rockefellers' First Two Albums, But After That..." should give you an idea of what that theme is. I'm not sure, but it may be obligatory for Omar's music to be themed for the purposes of context and added structure, as no album he's ever created seems to be without one. Digging into the music, you find standard ORL and TMV-type fare: rock compositions with progressive, funk and psychadelic elements. Only difference is, sandwiched amongst some overly-intellectual TMV albums, Old Money seems so much more immediate and impacting. Some songs sound more like jam sessions than previously-considered "songs" (Population Council's Wet Dream, Trilateral Commision as Dinner Guest) and make for interesting interludes between the well-structured offerings scattered about. Absolute highlight: the riff that rises up through the ether of "I Like Rockefellers' First Two Albums...", a repetitive, swirling dervish that leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. Other moments to keep your ear open for: Private Fortunes, 1921, the 9 minute closing title track of epic awesomeness.
This was reportedly going to be a follow-up to a TMV album but was given the Rodriguez-Lopez solo stamp after a shift in musical direction. It's hard to say that this wouldn't have made for a successful TMV album, but regardless of the header it is a great album all the same. Modern progressive rock seems to begin and end at the whim of Lopez and his instrument (the irony within being that Lopez has always loathed the guitar to some extent), and the melting pot of genre-specific ideas and flourishes brought to every one of his releases. He is certainly improving upon his craft even to this day, so long after At The Drive In and the breakthrough era of The Mars Volta. And as good as Old Money is at it's very best, it's still little more than a whetting of your appetite, a tease at something truly monumental yet to come from the cream of today's progressive movement rising to the top.
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