El Paso, Texas, firebrands At the Drive-In were so combustible, it was probably inevitable that the band would flame out only four albums into a promising career. After ATDI called it quits in 2000, a pair of new groups formed in its wake: Emo upstarts Sparta and the much more invigorating Mars Volta. Fronted by Drive-In vocalist Cedric Bixler and guitarist Omar Rodriguez, Mars Volta infuses ATDI’s taut anti-anthems with congos, maracas, organ, and malfunctioning electronics.
De-Loused is an hour of unabashed ambition that forms a new kind of punk prog rock. Its eight songs are full of twists and turns, with Bixler going from whisper to yelp in an instant, and Rodriguez’ diesel-powered guitar out to both seduce and destroy. Guest bassist Flea helps turn sprawling workups such as the jarring “Roulette Dares” into exercises in stamina and daring. It’s wayward rock from a new group of drama kings, as unbounded as our appreciation for this essential debut.