From their formation in the early 90’s up until 2001, spacey-surf rock band Man or Astro-man had pumped out album after album and then suddenly, nothing. Often times it’s difficult for a band to just rise from the ashes like this. They can be as skilled and creative as ever, they can have even grown a bit, but the world of music is changing. The issue here isn’t about what’s trendy, but rather the simple evolution of music itself. Man or Astro-man’s latest album has to handle some serious scrutiny, after all, it’s the band’s first go at proving themselves once again. For twelve long years the band failed to produce anything, but then suddenly, 2013 came, and with it, their newest masterpiece Defcon 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.
Track one, here we go, “Defcon 5.” As the song starts you begin to feel as if someone had just booted up an old arcade game, and then the guitars invade in a heavy blast of frantic strumming and ominous undertones. Man or Astro-man manages to shake the ground with their vicious rhythms and surf-rockish melodies. And to think, this is just the precursor of whats to come. Track three also stood out, “All Systems To Go,” is wonderful just for the robotic-vocoder-voice that intercepts throughout Dick Dale-esque guitar. It’s a seriously cool song for a seriously cool band. As the next few songs come and go, however, MOAM’s ‘gimmick’ becomes apparent. The “Astro-man” part of their name manifests. Each track seems to be like an alien race with a love for surfing is invading your headphones, and that’s where things begin to get awry.
When Defcon first started, immediately some intense and well composed rock riffs were expected. But then the surf rock side of the music grew to be more and more prevalent, and that’s fine. But then each song began to sound the same as the last, and that’s where things really become problematic. Man or Astro-man’s latest album is just over a half hour long, which isn’t bad at all; during this time span however, it was often difficult to differentiate between one song and another. Each track seemed like the next link of a chain, continuing exactly what the last song did, with nearly no change. It’s not that the album seemed seamless –in fact that would have been a great thing (in theory). The real issue here is that the songs didn’t seem to differ too much, and the album quickly becomes a sleeper. Even when things are at their most interesting, when Man or Astro-man is putting forth their all and utilizing their every single resource, it’s just not that interesting. There’s really no other way to say it, the album gets boring.
Now wait, all is not lost. Man or Astro-man chose to do a few things right with their latest album. First and foremost, atmosphere. Generally speaking, in any form of art, atmosphere really, really matters. If the listener doesn’t feel absorbed in the music, then it’s not really music, it’s just sound. Music, as an art, is emotion and therefore requires some sort of response. Defcon 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1 is seriously atmospheric. If any apocalypse prophecies are going to be fulfilled any time soon, you may want to get Man or Astro-man’s latest into your collection ASAP. The album cynically covers all of it’s doomsday basis’ and in particular, track eleven, “Cocoon” comes to mind. MOAM must be fans of Huxley, because the song practically screams, “Brave New World.” Each little guitar twang and drum beat take the listener into an extremely dark world where we all are lab rats; the lyrics go so far as to explain, “They pump you up all full of lies,” and if that doesn’t scream atmospheric doomsday to you, I don’t know what does. Getting away from theatrics however, MOAM also knows how to play it safe. The rise of digital instruments can be seen in nearly every band today. Often times, they’re not used very sparingly either. MOAM however keeps things simple. Yes, here and there you’ll get some sci-fi effects, but the music is genuine and real. The band is playing the music they want to play, and that’s refreshing.
Sure, Man or Astro-man might be a little rusty, but their newest album, Defcon 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1 is by no means horrible. The band knows what direction to take, and how to take it. Give them time, and we’ll have another class act on our hands. There’s no doubt about it, Defcon is a great way for an old band to make a new comeback. Whether it’s the aggressive instrumental or the dark themed lyrics, Fans of the apocalypse and surf rockers this album is practically made just for you.
MP3: Man or Astro-man? “All Systems To Go”