The Mars Volta

In Remembrance of Isaiah “Ikey” Owens

Unfortunately, the music world suffered a great loss with the unexpected death of keyboardist Isaiah “Ikey” Owens earlier this week.  Like many fans, I first heard of Ikey when the formation of The Mars Volta was announced.  Back then, once we consoled ourselves after the disintegration of At the Drive-In, we eagerly looked forward to the next project of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.  Once it was revealed that they were adding a keyboard player in to that mix, as well as bringing in ringers like Flea and John Frusciante, we were intrigued as to what the final product would be.

Ikey often brought a subtle presence to the songs, with his contributions often difficult to distinguish at first due to the bombastic nature of many of the guitar arrangements.  But careful listens that many of the melodies and textures were Ikey’s, and his keyboard playing was an integral part of the overall Mars Volta sound.  And even from behind his rows of keyboards and organs, Ikey was an engaging stage presence who would always grab your attention; for instance, when I think of the “Inertiatic ESP” video, it’s his headbobs and glissandos that I remember first.

After working with The Mars Volta for years, he eventually joined up with Jack White in his “Buzzards” all-star backing band, and anyone who has had the fortune of seeing Jack’s solo shows these past few years knows just how special that lineup is.  It was while on tour in Mexico with Jack White that Ikey’s unfortunate death occurred, and out of respect for him that the rest of White’s tour dates in the country have been cancelled.

Of course, considering the great talent of Ikey, other groups were eager to hire him as a guest musician.  A quick glance at his guest appearances on Wikipedia indicate that artists from a wide variety of genres respected his skills, including El-P, Saul Williams, and Mastodon.  Truly, the world lost a great musician.

Beck or At the Drive-In/Mars Volta Lyric?

During last week’s big show, I remembered a bit that I thought would be a fun game for a music magazine or website: Is this a Beck lyric or an At the Drive-In/Mars Volta lyric?  Both Beck and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (singer and wordsmith for the latter groups) are known for their lines that when read in isolation have little to no literal meaning, yet each can still captivate the listener due to their ability to craft a memorable phrase and use of bizarre imagery.  With that in mind, we here at Rust Is Just Right are proud to just go ahead and do the game ourselves.

Here are a few of our favorite lyrics, and while we won’t reveal the artist, we will include a link to a video so you can confirm your guess.  These should be relatively well-known songs if you’re familiar with the artist–we’re not going to try to stump you too hard.

1. “In the company of wolves was a stretcher made of cobblestone curfews; the federales performed their custodial customs quite well.

2. “She’s got a carburetor tied to the moon; pink eyes looking to the food of the ages.

3. “When they dance in a reptile blaze, you wear a mask, an equatorial haze; into the past, a colonial maze, where there’s no more confetti to throw.

4. “This is the pocket-sized edition; rapid sleep through benediction; let’s just paint you a pretty face.

5. “Past, present, and future tense, clip-side of the pink-eye fountain.

6. “Heads are hanging from the garbage-man trees; mouthwash, jukebox, gasoline; pistols are pointing at a poor man’s pockets, smiling eyes with ’em out of the sockets.

7. “Can’t you hear those cavalry drums hijacking your equilibrium?  Midnight hags in the mausoleum where the pixelated doctors moan.

8. “With a noose she can hang from the sun, and put it out with her dark sunglasses.

9. “But have they kissed the ground?  Pucker up and kiss the asphalt now.

10. “He’s got fasting black lungs, made of clove-splintered shards; they’re the kind that will talk through a wheezing of coughs.

Hope that was fun; maybe we can do it again some time.