THE MARS VOLTA

De-Loused in the Comatorium

(Universal)

****
When an avalanche of private implosions took down At the Drive-In in 2001, two very different forms of sonic life crawled out of the wreckage. Sparta took the national spotlight first with an everything-in-its-place melodic post-hardcore sound that fit nicely on commercial radio. After the intense musical constructions of ATDI, Sparta has felt like ATDI-lite, a good band with little to no surprises in its music. The two to really watch--not that you could miss them, due to the sheer amount of hair involved--have been Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez, who've since thrown convention in a centrifuge until it comes out in waves of dub, free jazz, and post-everything experimentation.

In both De Facto and the Mars Volta, Bixler, Rodriguez, and their new team of Ikey Owens (Long Beach Dub Allstars) and Jeremy Ward (who, sadly, passed away from a drug overdose last month) wander wide trails of musical exploration, mixing up organic percussion, echoing effects, and a penchant for psychedelic overtones that pulse around the same driven singing style that attracted people to Bixler in the first place. De-Loused in the Comatorium is the first full-length from the Mars Volta (a follow-up to 2002's excellent Tremulant on Gold Standard Laboratories), and it successfully reconciles the red-faced adrenaline of ATDI with more interesting, artistic diversions away from the aggro/emo dynamic. Reason enough to keep your eye on this group for years to come. JENNIFER MAERZ

DIE MONITR BATSS

Youth Controllers

(Dim Mak)

***
Die Monitor Bats, known alternately as seemingly any arrangement of the letters that compose their name (see credit above), are a Portland four-piece of absurd composition--two guitars, two sets of vocals, drums, saxo-ma-phone. "Doesn't sound so absurd to me," you say (ever snidely)? Well, I guess you haven't heard them, then. Clearly, the lineage from which Diiiie Mntr Batzz descend (sparing us all the list of no-wave pedigree) lays a groundwork of understanding for such a brand of ungodly racket--but come on, does perspective really make this record any less ridiculous? And when I say "ridiculous," I mean TOTALLY AWESOME. It's a sloppy, masturbatory mess of chunky, dissonant guitars, jarring horn squelches, stutter-stops, and atonal screaming--and it just makes me so damned giggly. There's almost nothing at all cerebral in my unabashed appreciation of this, their debut EP; Dye Monitrrr Battz seem to have done the previously unthinkable--shoving an id-soaked sock in the mouth of this impossibly long-winded reviewer with the depth of their sheer awesomeness. I mean, come on--nine songs in under 15 minutes, plus the greatest chorus of all time ("Spread your legs! And release the Bats!")? How could you, with a clear conscience, resist this? ZAC PENNINGTON

CLEM SNIDE

Soft Spot

(spinART)

***
Well, duh: The record is called Soft Spot, people. Did you expect anything but an album's worth of soft-rock ballads and porch-lit sing-alongs? Clem Snide are from Brooklyn, which makes them an hour-and-a-half subway ride away from being the next Yo La Tengo. Which is a good thing, seeing as Ira and the fam have spent far too much time lately running around Hoboken, chasing a cloud with no silver lining. While indie rock's sweetest geezers sweat their pension plans, lead Clem Eef Barzelay can be found singing sun-bathed songs that actually sound like summer, crafting odes to Al Green while his flip-flops dangle off his toes. Soft Spot may not be the feel-good hit of the year, but its sad despair still hits you where it feels good; romantically strumming your heartstrings while doing a moon dance until dawn. TREVOR KELLEY

MIRACLE CHOSUKE

The 7/8 Wonders of the World

(Dim Mak)

***
So many try it, but so few get it right. Uh-huh: the punk scum double-dipped in synth skree, then duct taped shut with screamy, urban angst and the willful collision of new-old technology (i.e., Commodore 64, y'all). Granted, it sounded better last summer, when Los Angeles quintet Miracle Chosuke had released only two MP3s, and back before every boy band with a sideways trucker cap and a Korg started sweating noodly, futuristic, keyb-rhythmic punk rock out their macrobiotic asses. But this sounds the best to me; these fellas were like 19 when they wrote the songs, and there's a lot to be said for the pheremonal raging of youth. At the same time, their dynamic, multidimensional guitar noodling is hooked on musical maturity, suggesting a desire to carry the concepts behind Yes into the computer age. What's mostly lacking in similar acts is the ability to write good songs; for five tots on a virtual mini-thin binge, MC are doing just fine. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

**** Judy Garland *** Bette Midler ** Cher * Bea Arthur

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