ALIENS – Astronomy For Dogs (Pet Rock)

Following on from their four track EP of last year, the Aliens now present us with their debut long player. The three-piece group, consisting of ex-Beta Band founder member Gordon Anderson together with Robin Jones and John Mclean, have produced a batch of songs that follow on seamlessly from that first outing, with only ‘Robot Man’ making a re-appearance. ‘Setting Sun’ is a great track to open proceedings, encompassing the band’s unique sound in a single song. Spacey and proggy at the same time, with a catchy tune and chorus, guitar solo and harmony vocals, it might hark back to the 70’s, but it is good to hear music of this quality again. After the familiar ‘Robot Man’ we get the 60’s pop influenced ‘I Am The Unknown’, once again featuring restrained guitar solos and multi-tracked vocals. ‘Tomorrow’ is a country influenced tune, like ‘Hey Leanne’ from their EP, and yet it is strangely appealing and quite commercial. ‘Rox’ is a retread of ‘Robot Man’, dubbed up and layered with Eastern instrumentation, while ‘Only Waiting’ starts out as a conventional song, but then the last minute and a half has Anderson cramming in as many words as he can over staccato violins, and despite sounding as thought this should be a complete mess it turns out to be one of the highlights of the album. ‘Honest Again’ is another song that starts out as a fairly simple love song, before that trumpet interjections at the end takes it to another level. ‘The Happy Song’ is a little too light-weight to really sit comfortably with the rest of the songs on here, but the sentiments are laudable – ‘I’m happy everyday…. do you wanna be like me?’. ‘Caravan’ ends the disc with a fifteen minute space-rock epic, sounding very much like festival stalwarts Ozric Tentacles in places, and with a decidedly hippy vibe which sums up the band perfectly. Anderson’s recent battles with mental illness seem to be behind him, and he has crafted a superb collection of harmony-drenched pop songs. As much as I loved The Beta Band I think that the Aliens house the real genius of that band, and you have to wonder what the Beta’s might have achieved if they had not asked Anderson to leave just before they hit the big time.