Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Sworn Virgins - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Sworn Virgins

by Amy Putman Rating:3 Release Date:2016-08-04

I'm not really a grey zone person. I don't even lounge against fences, let alone sit on them.  I find moderation difficult. I combine flighty with obsessive through the manifestation of passion; short bursts of intensity, switching subjects on a whim. I'm all or nothing; yae or nae, yo. Never maybe, or a bit. 

That's not to say I don't have long term loves but those are deep enough to become lifelong truths, like my love of artichokes, dancing, and rain.  It's also not to say I can't relax, but then I don't care at all - those are the nothing times, when I irritate people with shrugs and a lack of caring where we go for dinner. I guess what I'm saying is that I don't always give a fuck, but when I do, my opinion is definite.  

Most of my most definite opinions mostly concern most pop culture. Specifically, music. 

It would have been better for Omar Rodriguez if I was a little more moderate; if I could be more meh; if I was dry and calculating about things... But then that's not really what music is about,  is it?
There's a line in the i ching which describes a rhythmic world music that calls to the souls of all.  It is a primal tune that all of us must dance to.  If you can comprehend its ways and move to its beat, so the hexagram implies,  then you will be able to achieve anything you desire.

I'm not saying all music has to be as profound and magical as that. What would radio one play if it was?  But I think all music should at least aspire to appear to be its pale shadow.  Sure, we sometimes use inoffensive things to fill silence,  or to placate people who don't want to be challenged,  but I wonder: if you aren't going to move people,  or at least try to,  then what's the point?  Why go through the pain and effort of creation if your aim is bland,  blank pretension,  or empty fiddling about?  Even prettiness touches something inside.  Even kitsch serves a purpose.  What exactly is the motive behind churning out insipid, incomplete doodles that graze the ears without stirring anything beyond?  

I guess Omar Rodriguez could answer many of these by proxy by simply explaining to me why  quantity is being valued over any semblance of quality.  Sure, I understand the value of a good publicity stunt.  And, yeah,  on paper releasing a whole bunch of albums in a short time is impressive.   But that only holds true if the quality is maintained. Otherwise it's just gathering up and scattering into people's upturned faces all the old, defunct, dead-ended jizz that should have been discretely discarded in a tissue.  It's taking all the glimmers of possibility that the creative mind throws up and greedily hoarding them all, without question. It's spooling out semi-formed notions, instead of working on them, experimenting and, ultimately, rejecting, however reluctantly,  those that did not stay robust in the face of testing,  or withered when the seed began to grow, or crumbled upon completion, or simply did not fit.

Fundamentally, this album feels lazy, confused, visionless, unformed, half-finished, insipid and uninspired. As a result, it is uninspiring. It's not just that it doesn't move you; it's that it's boring.  
There's a reason most artists are not this prolific. It's not, as Omar Rodriguez seems to have thought,  because they're less creative than him, nor that they have fewer ides, or are less inspired.  It's not because they are idle. It's the opposite of sloth. Most of them could churn out hastily thrown together tracks if they wanted to. They don't, not because they don't care about volume,  but rather because they do care about making something meaningful and effective,  or at least stirring-adjacent.  It is far harder to reject your own ideas, or to spend six months perfecting one track than it is to fan your ego by allowing all passing thoughts to prevail.  

I will grant that the opening half if the first track shows promise, in a fuzzy seventies rock kind of a way,  but that just makes me angrier.  It shows a hint if what could have been if he'd stuck with it and tracks like it, instead of running headlong into tired indie degeneration; everyday small town pub band tedium.   The end of movement mock-music that is dragged out from tired mimics.  Indie can still be great,  but this is cut price Scissor Sisters mixed with a Dinosaur Jr cover band.  It's just such a shame because that brief glimpse in the first thirty seconds shows so much potential to be something awesome; retro flavoured without heavy nostalgia; rocking without being too genre specific,  with a voice that wails and a tingle-inducing wiggle.

The rest of the album, though, is beyond patchy. It feels like a pile of different sized twigs that the top few keep sliding off, only to be scooped back up and balanced again. It hasn't been compiled with any plan, feeling, or grace. There's no theme or thread, no sound or flavour.

If I was a different person,  perhaps I would be kinder.  Moderation and politeness in a reviewer would benefit Omar Rodriguez. None of this album is truly appalling. Most of it is just about snout out above the watery surface of the average. 

But I'm not kind, and the disappointment made me angry. The pretension riled me. The boredom embittered me. The blandness irritated me. If I was less opinionated I'd probably shrug and push the album into the pile for foyer music, unchallengeable minds, and disparate groups who cannot stand silence, but instead I'm deleting it. 

I'm scowling, thumbs down, kicking puppies. At least it's raining.

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I love a good thrashing review and this is a juicy one. The dead-ended jizz in tissue line is brilliant.

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