The Astronauts


The Astronauts When You’re Not So High LP

The ASTRONAUTS, the epitome of punk rock jam bands, are a developed taste, but When You’re Not So High is actually quite easy on the taste buds, as the ASTRONAUTS rock harder on this LP than on any previous release. This four-song LP has song lengths that may push the boundaries of your attention span, but that won’t be the fault of the band. “Heresy,” the opening track, is a very moody (edging near dub session) critique of contemporary punk and our failing governments, all delivered in the poetic manner only Mark Wilkins (a.k.a. Mark Astronaut) is capable of. The second song “Have It” almost reads as “All Night Party, Part Two” with a pulsating club beat driving an anti-party/party track, and if you’re looking for the “punk” on this album, wait for this song’s midpoint—by the end of it, you’ll be questioning your own complicity in the scheme. “High” and “Melissa’s Party”, the final two songs, almost flow into one unit as they meander and then suddenly rage against the politics of social gatherings as viewed through the lens of 40-plus years of partying experience. I often listened to the ASTRONAUTS in the same way as I view surrealist art, a quick review followed by several hours of discovering the various hidden messages and small enclaves that make the whole of the work interesting. What I can say at the moment is this album is full of very controlled vitriol aimed squarely at the external and internal bullshit of our day, all backed by constantly interesting arrangements. This might not be the most “punk rock” album, but I assure you the message is more punk than any of us actually are.

The Astronauts It’s Got a Garden LP

If you’re like me and somehow missed it, the ASTRONAUTS are a “semi-legendary” UK band that loosely resonates with a variety of genres including anarcho-punk, psych-rock, progressive rock, and folk punk. They launched in 1977, just eight years after Apollo 11’s moon landing. In 1981, they released their first LP, Peter Pan in the Suburbs on All the Madmen Records—sharing the roster with FLOWERS IN THE DUSTBIN and the MOB. With witty, irreverent lyrics and a sound swinging from tripped-out psych-rock to impassioned political ballads to folky campfire sing-alongs, they wound their way into the hearts of hippies and punks alike while touring around the UK with ZOUNDS. Their original recordings were overlooked for years before becoming massively collectible in the era of Discogs. The band’s early EPs and first two LPs were re-released on vinyl by La Vida Es Un Mus Records a few years ago, making them available beyond the realm of serious record collectors. While they may have slowed down for a few years in the ’90s, the ASTRONAUTS never stopped making records. Scattered among various formats and labels, they continued to grow and transform. So this November 2019 release is hardly a reunion. It’s Got a Garden stands out in the way it fully takes advantage of modern recording capabilities. There is enough of a consistent aesthetic throughout the band’s discography that it feels like a peek into a parallel universe where the early UK anarcho-punk bands recorded with what, at the time, would have been major label recording studio equipment. The richness of the song “Garden” reimagines DAVID BOWIE-style futurism minus the rockstar vanity, before meandering into a chorus of theatrical singing backed by thin violin accompaniment. There’s something greater here than a more velvety recording, though. While some bands stick around trying to relive their glory days, the ASTRONAUTS’ true glory days are ahead of them. In the process of tirelessly crafting album after album, they’ve perfected rather than rehashed their sound. This new release is just as fresh and exciting as anything they’ve created.