Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Aliens, Astronomy For Dogs

This is quite a story.  In 1996 guitar player, singer and songwriter Gordon Anderson and a couple of friends formed a band in Edinburgh, Scotland.  They called themselves the Pigeons but soon the aliensname was changed to The Beta Band.  Around the time the band released their first EP Anderson succombed to mental illness and left the group.  The band continued on with a career that saw consistent critical acclaim but which ended in 2004 after three albums when they decided they weren’t happy with the music they were making.  Meanwhile Anderson spent eight years in a mental hospital diagnosed with schizophrenia undergoing drug treatments and electro-shock therapy which he says did absolutely nothing to help him.  He was released in the care of two Christians who took him into their home and helped him work through his problems.  Three months later he believed himself to be okay again, was able to function normally, and was back making music.  He hooked up with John Maclean and Robin Jones the keyboard player and drummer from the Beta Band and the trio began making music together as The Aliens.

“Astronomy For Dogs” is The Aliens’ first album and Anderson wrote all the songs.  It’s terrific.  The CD is bursting with great tunes, richly layered music and a scintillating combination of both massed and harmony vocals.  “Rox” sounds like it could have been recorded during the Screamadelica sessions while “Only Waiting” is a dead ringer for Revolver / Rubber Soul era Beatles.  It sounds like Neil Young makes a vocal appearance on “Caravan”, an extended psychedelic jam that ends the album.  The best some bands can do is sound like slavish imitators of their influences while others find a way to clearly reflect the sound or stylings of their forerunners while still producing music that is fresh and interesting.  The Aliens could be poster boys for the latter group.  The Beatles influence on “Astronomy For Dogs” is both strong and obvious and yet The Aliens are always their own band.  This is a very good band making music in a style pioneered by a great band.

It’s not all good.  “Glover” is based on a very simple four chord descending riff that repeats endlessly as a grab bag of keyboard effects and ghostly vocals are scattered here and there.  At just under eight and a half minutes it’s about five and a half minutes too long.  But “Glover” is the exception rather than the rule and one of the reasons it stands out is that Maclean’s highly varied keyboards usually add great richness and texture rather than tedium.

“Astronomy For Dogs” is one of the most intriguing debut albums I’ve heard this year.  I hope it’s not a one-shot because I’m really looking forward to The Aliens sophmore CD.  Recommended.

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12/16/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews |

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