Monday, 5 August 2013

Review: The latest from Calling All Astronauts

The debut album in this day and age is a curious thing. It can make or break a band, as much as it always could. But, depending on the length of time a band takes between first bursting into the public's consciousness and releasing the LP, the album could have a number of different results.

Take, for example, the first LP by Grinspoon, in 1997. If is correct, before the album was released there were two EPs and two singles before the album was released, with a total of 5 tracks from these releases appearing on said album. By the time the promo cycle was finished, a further 3 singles were issued and thus a total of 7 out of the 16 tracks were well known to the public. Thus the album pretty much plays a bit like a best of LP.

Such is "Post Modern Conspiracy", the first album by Calling All Astronauts, the pseudo-goth/punk/anarcho/metal/industrial/dance/pop band from London UK. With no less than three singles appearing before the album was released, this sets up the album as a strong and potent release, especially as the aforementioned singles are included in the package.

If you've heard the earlier singles "Someone Like You", "What's so good about..." and the stomping electro-thumper "Winter of Discontent" you'll know what you're in for. This is a solid record chock-filled with heavy beats, deep layered synths, loud guitars and David B's droning and occasionally subsonic vocals.

One can't help but think about how this reminds the listener of some of the darker indie pop of the 80s - one can hear shades of Joy Division (and by extension New Order), The The, Mission of Burma, The Wolfgang Press and others. This is not a complaint, but rather a reference point. Certain sections of the pop world are still in a heavy 80s throwback mode anyway. But while many are content to ape Madonna at her tackiest or recycle AC/DC's tired and worn guitar riffs, Calling All Astronauts are tapping into and mining a richer seam of retro gold, while adding a modern veneer to the music as well.

While David's vocals can be an acquired taste, they are absolutely perfect for the type of electro-industrial clang the band conjure up. While the lyrics are incomprehensible at times, it does so in a charming way, much like Michael Stipe on the first couple of REM LPs. Repeated listening will reveal the subtleties of the lyrics, which deal directly with the vacuousness of modern celebrity culture, consumerism and general public ignorance and apathy.

This is a very consistent release, with some very strong material throughout. The sound is consistent and solid, and it really doesn't let up much before "Eye Of God" which supplies us with a nice mashup of 80s jangle guitar and drum-n-bass-style drum loops.

It's a strong LP and those who are fans of the singles won't be disappointed. Really, most of the tracks here could be singles, as they stand up well on their own. Like the aforementioned Grinspoon LP, with so many well known songs already on the LP, with so many other songs that are just as strong on it, this could almost be their "best of" album.

The problem may well be from here is have the set the bar too high first time out? How will they top such a strong release with their second? We will wait with baited breath to see how they get on.

This one's a keeper.

As the song title goes "Ignorance is not an excuse". Take a listen to "Post Modern Conspiracy" below and get your informed.

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