By melding visceral cacophony with Texas-size ambition, this Austin unit presents its melodic urges and wildest prog-rock dreams with hi-def clarity on its superb fourth album, Worlds Apart.

The 12-song disc – where the rumbling existentialism of "Let It Dive" can segue unpretentiously into an orchestral piece such as "To Russia My Homeland" – simultaneously raises the alt-rock bar and raises Cain through an unerring arrangement acumen that leaves space for hooks, substantive themes and gilded touches.

Both the title track and "The Rest Will Follow" swing merrily. The former mocks MTV’s bling-centric paradigm, while on the latter, the band commonly associated with trashed stages seeks purity ("How can anyone be so unkind/as to want to take another’s peace of mind").

The album’s highlight, "Classic Arts Showcase," might share a title with a cable program, but its heart is all King Crimson, as evidenced by the bells, whistles, jerking rhythms and drum-solo coda.

Can you call this album a classic art-rock showcase? That would be dead on.

Grade: A

© 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Worlds Apart is currently available.