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Man or Astro-Man?

Entry updated 24 September 2021. Tagged: Music.

Rock band formed in Auburn, Alabama, in the early 1990s, core members being Star Crunch, Birdstuff and Coco, The Electronic Monkey Wizard. They might be Aliens who crashlanded on Earth, as they claim, or Brian Causey, Brian Teasley and Robert DelBueno. Musically recapturing the sound of the instrumental surf-guitar music of early 1960s acts like Dick Dale and the Chantays, but with an added punk gusto; they are steeped in sf influences, particularly 1950s/1960s Sci Fi movies, including English-dubbed Japanese works such as Kaiju films.

Songs often heavily feature clips from such films and similar media, their titles referencing the tropes of Monster and Alien movies, as well as Comics – but other teen entertainments (hot rods, surfing) and wider sf matters also get a look-in. The song "Invasion Of The Dragonmen" is typical, opening with two teens' whispered exchanges: "Those creatures ..." "They have almost human bodies ..." "And dragon heads ..." "Look at that one, bigger than the rest; he's a dragon, breathing smog and fire ..." "But he walks like a man!" – then the guitars kick in. The vocal sample comes from the 45 rpm disc of the 1974 Comic book plus record set Spider-Man: Invasion of the Dragon Men (see Superheroes). Clips on other tracks include the films Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Kronos (1957), Queen of Outer Space (1958), Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966) (see Gojira), War of the Gargantuas (1966) (see Kaiju) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), as well as the tv series Battle of the Planets (1978-1980), commercials and comic book & record sets for Star Wars and Batman.

Exemplary track titles are "Evil Plans Of Planet Spectra", "Escape Through The Air Vent", "Alpha Surfari", "A Reversal Of Polarity", "Tetsuwan Atomu" (see Astro Boy), "Krasnoyarsk-26" (named after a Russian closed city built in 1950 to create Weapons-grade plutonium); "Philip K. Dick in the Pet Section of a Wal-Mart" (see Philip K Dick), "Tomorrow Plus X" (see Wilson Tucker), "Interstellar Hardrive" (a combined Pink Floyd and Computer pun) and "Illidium Q-36", the last a reference to the Warner Bros. Cartoon Hare-Way to the Stars (1958). Cover versions include The Rezillos' "Destination Venus" (a rare vocal foray), "The Jetsons Theme" (see The Jetsons) and the "Mystery Science Theater 3000 Love Theme".

Their early album covers use or are in the style of Pulp sf illustrations: the first (Is It... Man Or Astro-Man?) credits Richard Powers (ie. Richard M Powers). Musically, later albums make less use of clips and have a more hard-rock, experimental feel. [SP]

Works (selected)

  • Is It... Man Or Astro-Man? (USA: Estrus Records, 1993)
  • Your Weight on the Moon (UK: One Louder, 1994)
  • Destroy All Astro-Men!! (USA: Estrus Records, 1994)
  • Project Infinity (USA: Estrus Records, 1995)
  • Intravenous Television Continuum (UK: One Louder, 1995)
  • Live Transmissions From Uranus (USA: Homo Habilis Records, 1995)
  • Experiment Zero (USA: Touch and Go, 1996)
  • Made from Technetium (USA: Touch and Go, 1997)
  • Eeviac: Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices (USA: Touch and Go, 1999)
  • A Spectrum of Infinite Scale (USA: Touch and Go, 2000)
  • Defcon 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 (USA: Communicating Vessels, 2013)

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