The Aliens: Astronomy for Dogs (Astralwerks)

CD Review

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I would think "Astronomy for dogs" would involve chewed-up telescopes and the dogs' own asses, but this Brit trio has other ideas. The band contains the founding members of the influential Beta Band, minus frontman Steve Mason, who quit music after the band finally split in 2004. The Beta Band were known for their impulsive stew of Electronica, Hip Hop, Folk, AltRock and Dance music (to name but a few ingredients), showing thousands of British musicians in the late '90s that it was OK to throw out the rulebook and just write your own. This trio of Betadudes is keeping to that anti-formula. They keep things psychedelic throughout and the mesh of sounds and styles is still wildly diverse, but this time out there's a much more "upbeat" feel, perhaps a sigh of relief that their former band is over (apparently, things didn't end so well). "Robot Man" is a Mooged-up '70s Funk/Prog song that sounds like Dr. Dre starting a Moody Blues cover band with Kula Shaker, "I Am the Unknown" is a PsychPop nugget loaded with layers of harmonies and noisy tangents, and "The Happy Song" is just that — no overt irony, just a sunny, shiny, hand-clap-littered Pop song. Either someone's got a new Prozac script (the chorus is "Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, happy ... you wanna be happy!") or it's some seriously cynical sarcasm. Astronomy for Dogs takes the original PsychPop format and gives it a 21st-century makeover, with mixed but mostly magnetic results. (MB) Grade: B

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