Mission to Mars -- time to return to planet prog
The mars volta
Progressive rock may be among the most maligned genres over the past few decades but that hasn't stopped At The Drive-In's Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from releasing album after album of challenging, polarising prog.
This latest -- their sixth as The Mars Volta -- is as uncompromising as we have come to expect from the American outfit, and for large swathes its stew of hardcore, electro-rock and avant-garde jazz stylings makes for an arduous listening experience.
There's no doubting their willingness to experiment -- virtually every track tries to innovate -- and there are occasional moments where even avowed haters will be struck by the inventiveness and audacity on display: the unpredictable time signatures and strangeness of the arrangements can be very daring.
There are even signs that the band are willing to embrace more conventional territory -- Dyslexicon (a typically opaque title for a Mars Volta song) displays elements of new wave, while The Malkin Jewel has hallmarks of reggae.
But, all too often, their nerdish, blokey brand of rock feels like a slog.
There's a fine line, after all, between startling innovation and noodling self-indulgence and The Mars Volta dance between the two -- and often several times in the course of the same song.
With the far more commercially minded At The Drive-In recently reformed, it's likely to be some time before Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez add a seventh chapter to their willfully odd side-project.
Key track Dyslexicon
Day & Night