Well, The Mars Volta, it ain’t. Tracks like ‘Red’ pulse with electro-dreampop textures that wouldn’t be out of place on a Death in Vegas record, while the darker ‘Morning Sickness’ isn’t a million miles away from the electro-indie of Metric. Writ large of course are Lopez’s guitar figures, sometimes obstinately abstract, sometimes more straightforward, but always inventive. Whether it’s the reversed riffs of opener ‘Eli’, or the more textural, even post-rock patterns of the first half of ‘Turtle Neck’, Omar appears nevertheless happy to take a back seat where appropriate, letting Nicci Kasper’s synths and Teri Gender Bender’s vocals come to the fore.
The Mars Volta have had a strong electronic element to their recent work, especially on last year’s ‘Noctourniquet’, but rarely if ever was it as seamlessly integrated into their compositions as on ‘Always On The Run’, a late highlight of the album. Kasper’s ubiquitous bass synths give the album a unique sonic structure and somehow delimit this album cleanly from Omar’s previous work. It’s very different, and whether or not it’s better than The Mars Volta is a debate for others; what is clear is that Omar Rodriguez Lopez – and friends – still have a lot more to offer.