What’s the next step after your band finally gains commercial success with one of the most influential albums of the decade? If you’re At The Drive-In, so goes the process: break up and start a dub outfit (De Facto) that morphs into an even more influential, Grammy-winning prog-punk group (The Mars Volta). Then break that band up and try some psychedelic pop. Proceed to name this crew Bosnian Rainbows.
Omar Rodríguez-López’s career choices have consistently surprised fans and critics alike. When he started firing key TMV players, the following albums’ liner notes read this paraphrased disclaimer: “‘The Mars Volta’ is the partnership between Rodriguez-Lopez and singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala – the other performers are ‘The Mars Volta Group.’” This freed him to cycle through musicians as he saw fit, but also bonded him to lyricist Cedric for nearly 20 years. Bosnian Rainbows is Omar’s first group without Cedric, who hasn’t taken it too well.
Teri Gender Bender of Mexican punk band Le Butcherettes, which also features Omar on bass, drives the lyrical bus of this strange hybrid, while final TMV drummer, Deantoni Parks, and his keys collaborator, Nicci Kasper, fill it out. Teri’s stage-name is a warning flag for her feminist subversion of gender roles in both bands; she can sing like a songbird or be aggressively throaty, reminding slightly of both Grace Slick and Janis Joplin but more masculine. Live, her captivating stage presence switches instantly from groove-dancing to dystonia twitching.
This range fits her visceral message: the unsurprisingly depressing “Worthless” [LISTEN] compares the useless world to “your blue and dead insides,” followed by the determination to “live on” anyway; on the part horror-synth, part new wave ode to the colors red and black “Dead to Me” [LISTEN] she describes self-harm as “tearing lakes inside [her] skin.” The dance-funky “Kiss My Brown Eye,” the third cut from their TBA debut album, judged by title, barely even hints at the coming sexual predation: [LISTEN]
You dig right in me
Without the hole of a spoon
And when I walk now
This wound has grown by the years
You kiss my brown eye
Almost a shell of a man
You call the children
It makes me sick ’til I die
Bosnian Rainbows is still reminiscent of the last Volta album Noctourniquet in its straightforward creepiness, but they take it several steps further: four-minute-pop structure, a drum kit of just kick/snare/hat, and every member, besides Teri, has their own keyboard, providing a minimalist psychedelic atmosphere.
They will still piss off Volta followers who want 10-minute shred-fests and Cedric’s Plant-esque gyrations. But hey, that’s how ATD-I fans felt in 2001. Omar’s streamlined goal to “make it shorter and to the point” successfully funnels his angular guitar through a self-proclaimed Siouxsie and the Banshees influence, while still keeping the most of the Volta’s bugs-under-the-skin vibe.
“Torn Maps” [LISTEN] is a slight let-down as the lead single, but before you write off this new project for its lack of drum solos, revert back to “Kiss My Brown Eye,” “Turtleneck” [LISTEN], and “Dead to Me.” Besides, Omar’s got to do what he wants – we all know what happens to his enthusiasm when he’s playing anything else. Plus, Teri needs the audience more than Cedric so she can break up the sexist undertones of the “rock and roll boy’s club,” and Bosnian Rainbows are the best way to swallow that pill.