by Tom Hallett
A full, yellow moon hangs heavily over the flat calm ocean’s reflection of far-off, majestic glaciers. The ancient, melting edifices seem to be slowly, wearily letting down their long, faithful guard over the peaceful gray waters of Kachemak Bay. The tiny town of Homer, Alaska, sleeps fitfully, its residents dimly aware that the rapid onslaught of mini-malls, K-Marts and Sam Goodys means that the once far-off modern rot of New America grows ever closer; their weak grip on tradition, autonomy and home-spun pride giving way to a cell-phone-addicted, text-message-sending, Intel-driven emptiness that all the snow in Nome couldn’t whitewash away.
Me? I’m standing on a balcony a couple miles inland, my back against the lavish picture window of a tony hillside home that provides a view of The Spit (a five-mile-long, half-a-mile-wide slab of sand, rock and gravel fill jutting out into the Bay), the town of Homer, and all of nature’s terrible beauty that surrounds it. I’m puffing on a half-blown stick of Matanuska Thunderfuck, a cold Alaskan Amber clenched in one fist; a boom box, a pack of lonesome coyotes and that unblinking, all-knowing full moon my only company. Peace. For now. I take a long drag, salute the Orb, and crank up the box. Here’s what’s playing RIGHT NOW...
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There are strange things done in
the Midnight Sun/ By men who moil for gold; the Arctic trails have their secret
tales/ That would make your blood run cold; The Northern lights have seen queer
sights, But the queerest they ever did see/ Was that night on the marge of Lake
Lebarge/ I cremated Sam McGee.” — Robert W. Service From “The Cremation of Sam McGee”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Life in a Northern Town” —
Royalty, Etc. Records
Track Listing: Science Of The Situation/ Credit Due/ Royalty, Etc./ Radio Velveteen/
2 Sec Gap/ Drowning Team/ Hotel Riviera/ Microscopic Ship/ Jackets On, Jackets
Off/ This Is A Test/ The Goth Girls Have Gone Interspatial/ This One Goes On
Forever/ There Are Openings/ Planets
Personnel: Guitars: Tim Uhl, Jon Greenlee. Bass: Adam Meyers. Drums: Aaron
Upstart local label Royalty,
Etc. Records returns with another killer release. Space Camp’s Mike
Wisti-produced sophomore effort— named for its home base—is a marvelous
collection of angst-and-frayed-nerves-inspired indie rock. Though the press
kit for this album crows that the band sounds “exactly like” The
Pixies, Modest Mouse and Archers Of Loaf, there are a bevy of other influences
and inspirations abounding in the grooves of Royalty, Etc. A quick spin
reveals touches of The Beatles, Sunny Day Real Estate, The Kinks, Fugazi, The
Cure, Sonic Youth, Rank Strangers and The Church, as well as some similarities
to late, lamented indie darlings Grickle-Grass.
Kicking off with the tight, irreverent snap of “Science Of The Situation,”
Space Camp immediately establish several key facts about themselves and the
album they’ve released. First, they’re what I like to call a “rocking
chair” outfit—meaning they absolutely adore the honored recording
tradition of easing into their tunes with tentative, introspective openings
that would lull yer gramma into a false sense of security and peace, but that
nearly always morph into either grand, glorious pop overdrives or snarling,
rousing rock anthems guaranteed to blow the old lady right outta her rockin’
chair. Secondly, the vocals here range from gruff, Henry Rollins-inspired barks
to inquisitive, Robert Pollard-ish squeaks to a simply unpeg-able howl of originality.
And third, this band makes no compromises, recognizes no barriers and offers
no mercy to the uninitiated and the ignorant.
The bulk of the songs here (14 in all) run the gamut from the obvious and revelatory
(the grand fuck-off to cover bands that is “Radio Velveteen”—sample
lyric: “There is nothing left to play/ Press record, you who are in the
cover band, turn it off, my friend”) to the weird and enigmatic (the sonic
wet dream of “Jackets On, Jackets Off”), but all hold one ingredient
in common—the sharp, ringing, anthemia of a concentrated, dual-axe attack
that would (and should) put the fear of RAWK into guitar-slingers from Built
To Spill’s Doug Martsch to Neil Young.
While the album definitely benefits from producer/rocker/guru Mike Wisti’s
magic board touch, there’s no doubting the live potential of the band
and their catchy, fiery original material.
Other standout cuts include SC’s driving, upbeat tribute to their label,
“Royalty, Etc.,” the almost folky riddles of “Drowning Team,”
a tune that obviously ties in with the album’s cover art; the front a
stark, black and white rendering of a smoking, drinking couple literally drowning
in a sea of gin, the inside a row of martini glasses and olives, and the distant,
melancholy aural flight that is “There Are Openings,” which poses
the question, “Whatever became of the never mind, passin’ time,
eyes averted, ignorant/ Faking depth, a desert’s worth ...”
The album closes, fittingly, with the dreamy, intergalactic opus, “Planets,”
a seven-plus minute-long journey to the center of your mind filled with overwrought,
emotional side trips, pain-wracked, self-flagellating truisms and soul-soaring,
inspirational insights. Space Camp may not be treading any new ground here,
but they certainly know the terrain they’re exploring and have one ear
turned towards the stars for fresh, mind-expanding musical colonies to come.
This time, it’s really true—this is one band that your well-paid,
poodle-haired cover band buddy really won’t like. Buy it today and let
the righteous torture begin, kiddies. Check out Space Camp and other killer
local outfits at RoyaltyEtc.com.
That’s the works for this time out, gang—tune in again next week
for another report from the frozen tundra of Alaska and more local record reviews.
Until then—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news, gigs, events or CDs you’d like to
see mentioned in this space, or you’d just like to know how great these
Matanuska Valley products really taste, send inquiries/replies to: Tmygunn777@people-pc.com.