April: Interplanetary Class Classics – The Moonlandingz

So, we come to April’s Album of the Month.  There aren’t many bands which start life as  songs on a concept album but that’s what we have here.  Sheffield’s Eccentronic Research Council released Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan in 2015 which slipped in an introduction to a fictional outfit called The Moonlandingz.  Fronted by Johnny Rocket (aka Lias Saoudi from Fat White Family), the story of the band’s rise and a fan’s obsession with the lead singer was narrated throughout by none other than Maxine Peake.  From there, the The Moonlandingz project gathered pace as Sean Lennon got on board to take care of production duties (this was post-Lennon witnessing a Fat White Family show at South by South-West in 2014, from which he bestowed the six piece with the accolade of their being one of the best live bands he’d ever seen).  Describing themselves as a semi-fictional outsider Ouija pop group, singles spawned: Sweet Saturn Mine which had already appeared on the Johnny Rocket album (promotional video starring the aforementioned Maxine Peake) and a precursor to the album collection at the back end of 2016 Black Hanz.

But it was to be the utterly gorgeous, swooping, majestic single, The Strangle of Anna, which piqued my interest.  I’m a sucker for wall of sound era ballideering and there’s something magnetic and beguiling about this most sumptuous of serenades that just drew me in and made me pick this album for this month.  I’m a fan of the criminally underrated Slow Club as well, and lead singer Rebecca Taylor contributes beautifully here.  Elsewhere, the album itself is a peculiar beast and it’s never what you expect although there is a glam rock, dark and dirty core which The Strangle of Anna aside, it doesn’t tend to veer particularly from.  There’s political commentary in the form of I.D.S. but I’ll be honest, the clever hook concerning forty-thousand years of Job Club could and should have been expanded on.  It feels like a smart idea not taken any further which, given the times we’re in at the moment, is guilty of being an open goal missed.

It’s a consistent record which doesn’t have many down points for me.  I love a bit of filth and up pops Randy Jones from the Village People to star in a twisted T-Rex tale which neatly summarises that pretty much every man from Stevie Wonder to the Sleaford Mods has a “Glory Hole”.  It’s a lipstick smeared, grubby tribute to the back passage and is basically a celebratory four minutes of nasty camp brilliance which you need a shower after enjoying that little bit too much.

A a footnote, not even an appearance at the end by categorically the worst singer I have ever witnessed in real life could tarnish my enjoyment of this album.  The warblings of Sean Lennon’s mum are unmistakable on This Cities Undone and she doesn’t manage to wreck proceedings (unlike the infamous live performance of Memphis Tennessee with Chuck Berry and husband John).  I would love to be one of the people who didn’t slate Yoko Ono but she was horrific at The Park at Glastonbury in 2014.  I thought I’d pop along to make my own mind up (because, y’know, there’s not much worse than an uninformed opinion) but she screamed and caterwauled through a 40 minute set, leaving with a mildly threatening “I love you…” as she wandered off at the end.  So I wasn’t expecting much when I heard she would be making a contribution here and at least they left it to its conclusion where she couldn’t do much damage to this relatively short but interesting collection.

7 comments

  1. misterstory

    So the album is all over the shop. In a good way. I think. Still not made my mind up 100% but its hard to ignore. Im finding the best time to listen to this ‘peculiar beast’ is in the car, volume-up. Its great driving music. The opening to the album is a real-smack in the glam-rocks which took me a little by surprise following my 6 Music playlist introduction by way of ‘Strangle of Anna’ (which now sticks out on this album … if not like a sore-thumb than perhaps a mildly achey little finger?). There’s a lot going on in this interpretation of ‘glam’. One thing that hit me is that some of the glammier tracks sound a little Queens of the Stone Age which has made me appreciate how much glam influence there is in Josh Homme’s writing, I’d never noticed that before.

    For me, my final decision on this album will come when I can answer the question ‘does it manage to overcome the novelty tag’? I think it does, a little like Ariel Pink’s albums did. I will write more when I’ve had more time to live with it.

    Thanks Paul.

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    Second brother Joseph here: fantastic writing brother Paolo. I love nothing more than passion and wordplay for music. And I better up my game.

    So, the album. I’ve had a few listens to this and it’s a real curate’s egg. I get that it’s not just an album, or a band, its a concept, a feeling and a throwback. But I guess for me that only goes so far….

    It’s absolutely bonkers. And that’s quite endearing, and lauded to hear a record made by people that don’t give a single toss about cool, about modern pop success or being “now”. They have a vision and it’s all about that. How that plays out on a collection of eleven songs depends on how you connect with the music itself, and I’ve struggled.

    There’s no doubting that Black Hanz is a fantastic, glammed-up humdinger of a single. I’ve heard it on 6Music before this came about and remember thinking “who are this lot?” I thought that if they could make a record like this, how does the rest of their stuff sound? I guess the answer was that Black Hanz was the most radio-friendly of the package. Again, this isn’t to say that it’s all about polished chart music, far from it, but when I expected to get enveloped by Interplanetary… it just ended up grating.

    I get the whole glam/psycheldelic/rock melting pot, and there are some moments of genius there. I actually love Theme From Valhalla Dale, like a lost archive from a 70s detective show we never saw, and The Rabies Are Back is a stomping vintage rocker. But the rest of it, while musically brilliant, just starts.tp drag and feels a bit pastiche, rather than fresh. I listened to a fair bit of psychedelic rock in my teens and this album makes me remember better stuff rather than complement it, which is a shame. Tracks like Neuf Du Pape and I.D.S. feel almost a bit like novelty singles you’d have seen DLT play in 1981, rather than Peelo in 1978. Glory Hole starts like T-Rex but just ends up blowing its chance in a wall of screeching sound.

    So a bit of a disappointment, which is no slight on Paolo’s choosing. This blog is never boring, and albums like this are just as worthwhile as some of my boringly obvious choices. So, hat tip to Paul, but a “hmmmmm” from me.

  3. David Allison

    Gosh, I really don’t know what to make that. I mean, I kind of like that – it’s great that music can feel unpredictable and it doesn’t happen often enough. But I find myself changing my mind about my response to this album about twenty times while listening to it. But it is VERY uneven – I’d agree with Guy about both the highlights and the weaker moments. The problem I think is in that glam-rock sound. It’s such a familiar trope, and though they really go for it, and they chuck in a proper bunch of weird, at its worse it does sound a bit comic. And then it gets hard to take it seriously.

    But…but…I still find myself enjoying some of it a great deal. The best bits remind me of Spiritualized and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and perhaps if they can iron out the wilfully wacky side, they could make a really cracking album. As it is, for me this is a very mixed bag and it doesn’t hold together as a whole album. Still, a really interesting choice, and enjoyably leftfield.

  4. nolankane706

    Brothers… super late to the party on this, apologies. Wow where do you start with this? I think my thoughts have been already touched on in one way on another throughout this conversation. Yes, this album is all over the shop but it’s a great driving album. I give you brother Paul 10 points for this as it’s not something I would have checked out, and I’m enjoying having it in the car.

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