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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Omar Rodriguez Lopez: "Se Dice Bisonte, No Buffalo"

I've been a fairly faithful Mars Volta fan since the band's first LP debuted back in 2003. However, to say that my admiration for the group has never wavered would be a lie. In fact, with each full-length album that the Mars Volta releases, my love for the band deteriorates just a little bit more. This downward trend is caused largely by the group's insistence on forgoing the largely prog-rock stylings of their debut in favor of more experimental paths. The "Hey, instead of a song, let's just play random crap for 8 minutes" approach was fresh on 2005's "Frances the Mute" but it felt unbelievably stale on their most recent album, "Amputechture." It should be of no surprise then that "Se Dice Bisconte, No Buffalo" is not my favorite of albums. In many ways this album is the embodiment of everything that I've grown to despise about the Mars Volta.

That's not to say that this is an unimpressive collection of songs, however. Quite the opposite! Despite my waning feelings for Omar and Cedric, I can still recognize talent when I hear it. It's just that the talent of these two individuals has been misplaced in recent years. "Buffalo" is just another example of that. For example, the first two tracks on the album "The Lukewarm" and "Luxury of Infancy" are utter throwaways. The first being a 26 second exercise in changing the pitch of your voice, while the second is just more of Omar's signature electric guitar "scribbling." These two tracks serve no purpose on the album whatsoever, as they're pretty much over before you realize it.

"Rapid Fire Tollbooth" may sound familiar to Mars Volta fans who have been to the band's live shows. Cedric Bixler-Zavala lends his vocals here, and as a result the song sounds very much like a Mars Volta song that couldn't find a home on "Amputechture." In fact, several of the songs on "Buffalo" that features Cedric's vocals sound like they were made during the production of that album, but just weren't good enough to make the cut ("Se Dice Bisonte, No Buffalo," and "Please Heat This Eventually" to be precise). "La Tirania De La Tradicion," on the other hand, is a fantastic song, and the highlight of the album. In this frantic 5-minute long song, Cedric's vocals are all over the place, and the end result is amazing!

In the end, the best moments on "Se Dice Bisconte, No Buffalo" are the ones where Omar and company play actual music as opposed to just random noise. Tracks like "The Lukewarm," "Luxury of Infancy," and "If Gravity Lulls, I Can Hear the World Pant" only serve as a reminder to how self-indulgent these musicians can be. However there are a few others that remind you why you fell in love with these guys in the first place. As a result, "Buffalo" feels more like half of an album than anything else. While some devoted fans may find it to be worthy of a purchase, I'd be much more inclined to download my favorite tracks and live out my life pretending that the others don't exist.

Recommended for fans of The Mars Volta and the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Quintet.

Key Tracks:
1. "Rapid Fire Tollbooth"
2. "Se Dice Bisonte, No Buffalo"
3. "Please Heat This Eventually"
4. "Lurking About In a Cold Sweat (Held Together By Venom)"
5. "La Tirania De La Tradicion"

5 out of 10 Stars

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