Over the past decade Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has, probably unbeknownst to many, released a glut of EPs and full-length albums that are eclectic and eccentric—this in addition to his work with The Mars Volta, a band that was either genius or the definition of overindulgent, depending on your headspace.
Along with making music that was overly fussy and fatty, Rodriguez-Lopez also earned a reputation for being a dictator in the studio, something he copped to when I interviewed him last year (he refers to that period as “a time of true focus”). Rodriguez-Lopez has since loosened up. And the self-titled debut LP from his new project Bosnian Rainbows is evidence in itself, a record that—unless you already know his name is attached—you might not realize he’s even playing on.
Bosnian Rainbows reins in some of Rodriguez-Lopez’s wiry guitar splatter, opting for buzzy new wave synths and soft-focus drums. The results are mixed. With the exception of a few songs, the album tends to fade into the massive sea of post-rock and new wave revivalists. Even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can’t get away with it anymore.
When songs do work, however, they shoot to thrill. “Morning Sickness” and “Dig Right In Me” deliver Blondie-esque new wave punk (the latter containing the memorable refrain, “You kiss my brown eye”). “Torn Maps” is laser-precise, with vocalist Teri Gender Bender doing her best Dale Bozzio. But Bosnian Rainbows’ best song is the stunning and moody “Turtle Neck,” which shifts from a breathy slow-burner to its climactic guitar break that shows Rodriguez-Lopez finally getting jolty and noisy.
Minus the cunning dynamics and guitar wonk, the focus turns to Gender Bender, who fronts Guadalajara punk band Le Butcherettes. Her voice fits perfectly, adding sass and sensuality to the proceedings (she’s also an incredible and intense frontwoman). The fact that Rodriguez-Lopez shows restraint throughout is worth noting, although he shouldn’t completely abandon the overwrought tendencies of the past decade. One thing is certain: Rodriguez-Lopez still doesn’t care what anyone outside the band thinks. And that’s promising.