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On Second Listen: The Aliens – Luna

on November 08, 2009, 12:00pm

Earlier in the decade, an indie super group of sorts formed that you probably missed. Made of three former Beta Band members, The Aliens came to fruition with 2007’s Astronomy For Dogs. While it was an excellent record, it had the tendency to stray from why it was so enjoyable, especially at the last half as they attempted to flesh out their new bands direction. Now armed with round two, Luna has found that direction with their ambition, not to mention a desire to relive the 60’s.

For a band that, in its original form, lived on cult success in the 90’s it’s only appropriate that it’s reincarnation falls on the same tendencies. While they kicked up quite the groundswell in their native U.K., the lack of direction on the debut record kept them a local secret. While Luna is by far the better of the two, the oddities and 60’s motif that endear it, also keep them right in that comfortable little home of U.K. cult hero’s, or for us in the States, give it a few years, then the hipsters will come around.

Luna carries the magic this time around. It’s exploratory with tracks that can be one-minute atmospheric interludes to ten-minute mind benders. But it’s how they do it, how they keep your attention that is so interesting. Instead of abusing sonic benders and electronic blips, they hit you with what made psychedelic music good in the first place. They also manage to keep an ear outside the studio bringing in the world around them. The intro on “Everyone” includes the sound of cars passing by while a piano builds up for some McCartney calling piano work. “Theremin” opens with a tribal bump, later stopping to start a car, and then literally driving off.

The good news with this band is that they found a balance between the new and old them, and managing to make it much better. “Magic Man” is them in the 90’s, just enhanced by acid rock, with amped up hooks. Album opener “Bobby’s Song” is crisper version of the old selves, harmonica and all. Similarities are also in the lyrics of peace, love, and escapism, “I just want to take you to the center, gotta get out of here…you can follow the sun”. This theme is everywhere on the record, bringing back and enhancing the optimism they’ve always carried.

With out a doubt, “Billy Jack” is epic, not to mention it’s the best way to kill ten in half minutes I have heard in a long time. It uses every 60’s trick in the book to write a huge acid fueled opus. From the opening organ, a Sabbath inspired stadium anthem erupts, and it’s the most fun I’ve had with a song in a long time. The track’s like nothing they’ve ever done before. No drone or melancholy, just a heavy blues-rock ride.

Just as much as they bring things up, they can also take them down. The previously mentioned “Theremin” is their version of a ballad, and the instrumental title track could be the music from The Matrix, or any space thriller. “Dove Returning” saves itself from boredom with a bluesy keys solo for the finish. Even the slow and strange are made to work for this record.

This time around, The Aliens have managed to wrap up everything we love about 60’s rock into a neat little package for Luna. This has made for a more cohesive follow up record that’s truly their voice. The music is gutsy, and proof of musicians actually having fun with song writing, just listen to “Smoggy Bog” or “Sunlamp Show” if you need more convincing. Between the two records, Luna stands out as the obvious winner. You gotta love it when bands keep getting better.

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Luna On Second Listen: The Aliens   Luna

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