The Aliens – Astronomy For Dogs (2007): Review

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Produced by The Aliens
Label – Pet Rock/EMI

The Aliens is 50% Beta Band, 25% Lone Pigeon, and the remainder a bubbling pot of wild invention and eccentric psychedelia. Over the 72 minute span of their debut “Astronomy For Dogs” the threesome encapsulate all the necessary highlights from left field music circa 1967 – 1992 in an album that highlights creative enthusiasm, genuine ebullience, and a hint of ironic humour. Following his well chronicled health issues, fully fit front man Gordon Anderson sounds reinvigorated by the project, and supported by former Beta Band Keyboardist John Maclean and drummer Robin Jones they weave imaginative trips through 60s West Coast melodies, 70s prog, and 90s indie dance. In theory the amalgam of all these influences leads one to think that such a vast sonic proposition shouldn’t work, and yet there’s something for everyone to dip into and enjoy. This is partly due to the fact that the band have simply filtered what’s good from each particular genre right down to the bones, and generated by top class song writing enhanced these basics to illuminating musical spontaneity. There’s hardly a glitch in the proceedings and right from the opening 60s psych/pop of “Setting Sun” to the sweeping stoned exploration of the closer (“Caravan”) the album is a joyous retro ride to the stars.

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For all its lyrical love lost narrative, “Setting Sun” swings via Jones’s powerful rhythms and MacLean’s stirring keyboard riff, subsiding at the fade out as the ethereal harmonies gently chant “We are The Aliens” in a humorous effort to hypnotise the listener. Playful fun is interlaced through much of the album, culminating in the lovingly bonkers pop jam “The Happy Song”, a song so unerringly simple, it sends all life’s traumas into astronomical orbit. I’ve heard that “Robot Man” was written in response to a particular incident where Anderson, bored, waiting in a line for a bus, decided on an instantaneous bout of bizarre robot dancing to entertain himself, and the song carries the funky 90s rhythms as he maintains his assertions that he is undoubtedly “the Robot Man”. “Caravan” is a tripped out Pink Floyd styled epic, full of experimental synth loops and massively multi tracked instrumentals serving up a complicated soundscape that requires your deepest concentration. The beautiful harmonies on the 70s styled ballad “She Don’t Love Me” fit perfectly to a long, meandering drive down narrow lanes through hazy summer sunshine. The clearest descendent to a direct musical strategy comes via “Rox”, which is a carbon copy of Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” material, but hey, if you’re going to be derivative make sure you pick something hot? And it is.

“Astronomy For Dogs” is the most surprising album of 2007. Quite simply, it’s also one of the best.

9/10

Track Listing
1.”Setting Sun” (5:12)
2.”Robot Man” (3:52)
3.”I Am the Unknown” (5:28)
4.”Tomorrow” (5:47)
5.”Rox” (6:15)
6.”Only Waiting” (5:24)
7.”She Don’t Love Me No More” (7:13)
8.”Glover” (8:22)
9.”Honest Again” (4:15)
10.”The Happy Song” (3:57)
11.”Caravan” (includes hidden track comprising piano from “She Don’t Love Me No More” and vocals from “Honest Again”) (16:21)

The Happy Song

Setting Sun

Robot Man

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