Sound — 8
When Omar announced a hiatus for The Mars Volta it soon turned into the band completely dissolving. Omar began work on a solo project which grew into a full-fledged new band with collaborative effort from multiple members, which immediately set it apart from The Mars Volta. The band includes Teri Gender Bender (on vocals), Deantoni Parks (drums, keyboard), Nicci Kasper (synths, keyboards), and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (guitar, backing vocals, keyboard). In a lot of ways this is a significant departure from the sound of The Mars Volta, as Bosnian Rainbows incorporates modern elements (with a lot of synths and keyboards) and vintage recording techniques with a larger focus on songwriting. Teri Gender Bender is also the lead vocalist from the punk band, Le Butcherettes. While Omar has compared their sound to such varied artists as Led Zeppelin to Siouxsie And The Banshees, it most resembles something you might have expected to be released if Silversun Pickups and Jefferson Airplane formed a supergroup. Maybe with an '80s era Cyndi Lauper or Madonna on vocals. The entire album was recorded using only analog equipment and was mixed exclusively with analog equipment. There are 11 tracks with a total runtime of just a little under 50 minutes. The average song length is a lot more traditional than you would expect from Omar with the longest song clocking in at just 6 minutes and 53 seconds. The first two singles from the album were "Torn Maps" (January 25th) and then "Turtle Neck" (February 11th). Out of the gate, I was pleasantly surprised. I expected an over-indulgent guitar-fest full of Omar showing off his considerable skill, but instead I found some interesting songs, very textured, with some very solid vocals provided by the oddly named Teri Gender Bender. The songs definitely have a tendency to get into the realm of psych rock, but with better musicianship than the genre is known for. The album opens with the track "Eli," which has a kind of spacey industrial vibe going on and definitely pulled me in. "Dig Right in Me" has a bass line that really gets in your skull, especially mixed with melancholy vocals a la Teri and the weird almost atonal slow-motion arpeggios provided by Omar. The track "Torn Maps" reminds me of a David Bowie tune, but I could never place which song it reminded me of exactly. "Turtle Neck" has one of the weirdest vibes on the album, at times sounding like it should have been on the "Top Gun" soundtrack, and at others kind of has a garage rock thing going on. The album closes out with "Mother, Father, Set Us Free," which is largely carried by the bass line and drums and really gives the impression of the album slowing down in order to come to a stop while somehow keeping me hanging on to hear every last note.
Lyrics — 9
I had never heard of Teri Gender Bender's band, Le Butcherettes, before I began listening to this Bosnian Rainbows album, so I went back and checked out a few songs. Le Butcherettes is much more punk rock than Bosnian Rainbows, so you get to hear some interesting contrast. Teri definitely has some vocal chops, and really impressed me as you don't think of punk rock as producing great vocalists. As I had stated earlier in the review, at times her vocals remind me of '80s era Madonna or Cyndi Lauper at other times her vocals are more in line with what you hear with some of the more popular female fronted indie bands. Omar provides some backing vocals and it is definitely in good taste when he does, but kept fairly minimal. Overall, I was impressed with the vocals on the album. The lyrics seem to run the gamut around a lot of different subjects, and I found myself replaying songs a lot to work out all the lyrics. As a sample, here are some lyrics from the song "Torn Maps": "Can we just stop/ acting like we dont know/ eating up your lies/ throw them out tomorrow/can we hold hands/ I promise you that they are clean/ putting up a fight/ against these men that behind/ newspapers and networking/ against these men that hide behind us." Then there are some songs with more enigmatic lyrics, like from the single "Turtle Neck": "I don't know, turtleneck, where you've been all my life/ But I feel, turtleneck that you're leaving me aside/ I don't know, turtleneck, where you've been all my life/ But I feel, turtleneck, that you're leaving me aside." I haven't been able to figure that one out.
Overall Impression — 8
I know that a lot of people will not agree with me, but I honestly enjoyed this album more than anything ever done by The Mars Volta. Maybe I am still caught in the new phase with the album; I can't say for sure. I do know that if this is where new music is going, then I'm all in. This is a good come back to all those pessimists out there that say there is no good new music coming out these days. I hope everyone enjoys this album as much as I did.