MAN OR ASTROMAN?
It is a well-known fact we earth folk became enslaved to the Astromen after their 1994 crash on our planet via their sci-fi themed hard surf sounds, like A Mouthful of Exhaust or Eric Estrotica. And when other bands consisting of earthlings would just suck up whatever adulation they could garner for the efforts, or perhaps venture slightly into other genres, the Astromen have refused to stay put, experimenting with guitar noise and loops and virtually every electronic device on the market from 1948-1963 in order to evolve their sound.
A Spectrum of Infinite Scale harkens more to their Made of Technicium album from a few years back, full of sprawling electronic-looped jams, playbacks and samples more than the hard beats and techno-ish feel of last year's EEVIAC. With mainstays Coco and Birdstuff, and newbie-nauts Blazor the Probe Handler and Trace Reading (!?!), A Spectrum of Infinite Scale offers a greater venture into electronica madness, with the surf surfacing here and there; that is, the surf origins of the Astroman is omnipresent, but it's like the light from a star many light years away.
This is not meant to be negative; undoubtedly, Spectrum... is the band's most artistic work yet. Full of harmonies that slide in and out of each other, and an amalgamation of the work both past and present, any fans of the band up to this point will be overjoyed. It's mostly creepy how downright beautiful some of the music is. But the regular Astroman style is intact, from the unlabeled CD, the maddening liner, and song titles (track 12 being Obligatory Part 2 Song in Which there is no Presently Existing Part 1, Nor the Plans to Make One). And that track 11 is entirely done made from the sounds of an old printer. Of course, the review doesn't matter; the overlords will tell you to pick it up anyway.-Rob Bricken
As the volatile bandleader of Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams has already demonstrated an intense and serious talent for writing songs. On his first solo album, he has abandoned the punk attitude of his band and directed all his energy into these songs. He seems to have matured with this album, opting for a more quiet, introspective form of melodic folk and country. Drawing on influences as varied as Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Bob Dylan, the 25-year-old Adams has crafted a record that makes him sound like he's got 90 years experience as a lover, rocker, and wanderer.
He kicks off the album with a folk rocker that is reminiscent of Dylan during the era of Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited. "To Be Young (is to be sad, is to be high)"screams of the frustration and loneliness of a young man. He immediately slows the tempo with the old-time gospel feel of "My Winding Wheel."
"Oh My Sweet Carolina" is a love song for the South boosted by the not-of-this-earth vocals of Emmylou Harris. The collaboration recalls the glory of the Gram Parsons/Harris work of the early 70s.
Heartbreaker is the sound of a man far from home, in the city, wondering where he's going to get the rent that is already late. An incredible record that proves Adams' songwriting ability and resilience to band conflicts and record company troubles. With this album, Adams proves he doesn't need a band to make great music and that the song is still the thing.-Steven Tweddell
The Deacon Aids Ebola, chief guitarist/producer/engineer of this little collection of ditties, states that this album is "a startling look at things to come and a bold, frightening journey into the future while encompassing things before you." I state that the Deacon A.E. is "a goof." When the peppiest track of the album whines, "I hold a needle in my hand ... I hope I die," you can't help but start snickering at how wretched these people are.
The music is ... well, kinda rap, kinda vocal-y, there's a beat a lot of the time. Someone on their website (www.grandlie.com) claims that jazz and hip-hop are major influences, but that may only be because they are both musical forms and someone is laboring under the belief that Nothing is Forever is music as well.
And the 'band' keeps using a sitar, which totally removes any gravity they have accidentally accumulated. Their goofy, 8th-grade worldview makes the absolute certainty of how terrible their lives are unspeakably funny, and it just gets funnier as they relentlessly avoid anything other than utter depression and nihilism. Listeners will come away with the feeling that a bunch of guys and gals were sitting at the coffee haus, pontificating on the futility of existence as discussed in the liner notes of a Notorious B.I.G. album, then the latte machine broke and they were all so bummed out that they had to cut an album. However, their objective of depressing the listener is finally achieved, after he/she realizes there is indeed a full album of this stuff.
Nihilism has been explored in rap many times before, all to more success. Prom Queen stands you up, and you have to listen to the guy who wears the black trench coat all year, even in summer. Better to stay home. -Rob Bricken