Almost anything is ‘prog’ these days. It could mean that it sounds like Magma or Knifeworld, or Iron Maiden’s recentish noodly stuff, but in this case, it’s a less over-polished space-rock-era Thirty Seconds to Mars (30STM). There’s grit on this, but it’s not going to worry your mum. Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel don’t sound French but sing their US twang in the pleasant harmonic style of the aforementioned 30STM, or God Lives Underwater before them.
Polaris is the fourth album, half-a-decade after Human Collapse. This appears to be a departure worth celebrating: “think later-day Baroness jamming some Pink Floyd tunes,” urges the press release, but this is the rock belt of ‘Young Lust’, not the whimsical psychedelia of ‘Bike’.
‘Dark Matter’ is the first disappointment, treading immediately on the toes of the far superior ‘Blood-Planet Child’. It could be the latter’s B-side, sounding exactly like it but far less catchy. ‘Blue Giant’ offers an out in the form of a gentle ballad, with distorted riffs that roll over the vocal harmonies like waves on a beach. There’s still nothing to suggest they haven’t listened to 30STM’s debut and said, “You know how this is almost great? Let’s do that.”
At least ‘The Plague’ is a little more playful compositionally, with fast bits and slow bits and bits where it hares off like a dog chasing a ball. Even so, it never latches on to something. There’s no overriding memorable hook, just sounds followed by more sounds. Luckily, ‘Alpha Ursae Minoris’ restores this: it’s both arresting and interesting. Classic rawk anthem hooks, but the melody doesn’t do what you expect, and it weaves in strange directions. The first song in six tracks to do something genuinely progressive. The main riffs are straight off Filter’s second album; the keyboards ripped from the 1970s. This is genuinely exciting, or at least a-Muse-ing.
‘Earthrise’ is the first and only song to sound classic Pink Floyd. It could be part of Meddle or Animals (though it lacks the stature and scope of Floyd’s grander moments). ‘The Key’ is staggeringly forgettable. To be worthy, an album needs at least three genuinely good tracks. ‘Horizon’ is that third. LDDSM work best when they’re twinning the earnest with the unexpected. Melodies bob and weave with Levitation-style flourishes, in that unhurried 70s-Floyd style they’re so clearly in love with, but the crunchy riffs are 21st century. The tempo change halfway through finally earns it the prog tag. Jared Leto is spinning in his salon chair.
‘The Great Filter’ hedges its bets: its first half is Echoes-era Floyd; its latter moments are noughties alt-rock, but it still squanders its opportunity to elevate an OK album to something greater.
Frustratingly inconsistent, with some standout moments, Polaris comes recommended – but only if you have nothing else on.
Release Date: 02/04/2021
Record Label: Klonosphere Records
Standout tracks: Blood-Planet Child, Alpha Ursae Minoris, Horizon
Suggested Further Listening: Thirty Seconds to Mars – 30 Seconds to Mars (2002), Muse – Simulation Theory (2018), Pink Floyd – Meddle (1971)