Liner Notes

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Man... Or Astro-Man? // Is It?

Released in 1993
First press on black wax
Favorite Track: "Clean up on Aisle #9 (Turn Up the Monitors)"

This record is tangentially responsible for a cross country move, the loss of my virginity, and my first band. My buddy Jawsh put it on a mix-tape in high school and I blasted tape hiss into my ears until they didn't make Walkmans anymore. And although you can't really sing along with an instrumental record, but you can memorize every B-movie sample and shout along with the band while they play. It's basically the same thing.

I own every single Man Or Astro-Man? record and nearly every 7". Some I've bought several times because I gave them to friends with budding record collections and had to rebuy. I love this band.  Since high school. And yet I continually find new things to love about them. I like their later records as much as their first. And that, for me, is the hallmark of a great band. Lots of bands can get lucky and string together a couple bangers. But seven great full length records, spanning twenty years, is something special.

The members who recorded this record parted ways before I ever got to seem them live, but they reformed in 2000 with a different lineup. My closest friends and lady road tripped to San Francisco to see them at the Great American Music Hall. These dudes are nerdy. I mean like really nerdy. Like they build the software they use to sequence their samples, nerdy. The wrote a song on a dot matrix printer and rolled it on stage to play a song. One of the proudest moments of my life was watching Amber wrench a piece of the printout from the girl next to her's avaricious hands. I still have a shard.  I never got to see them with their original lineup.

Until, they reunited. Like a bunch. Over and over again. "Oh, I'd better travel way the fuck over there to see them because I'll never get a chance to see them again.." Yeah, I did that like a dozen times. They're still together and playing at least once a year. I don't travel to see them anymore, but I still go to every show here. Hey, it got me to Chicago for the first time and made me think this was a place I could pay rent in for a few years.

When you love MOAM, and bands like them, you don't have to treat their discography like a minefield. Eventually they left behind Ventures-style surf for a Sonic Youth in space sound. Every record is great and, though their sound evolves, it's all fantastic. The argument isn't about which records are good, but which records are better. I get deeply jealous when someone discovers MOAM because they just added nearly a dozen great records (because who doesn't need the live records and 10"s too?!) to their collection. It's like the first time I saw The Jinx. I wanted to go back in time and watch it again with fresh eyes. It's how I feel when someone tells me they haven't seen Shawshank Redemption before. I get giddy at the thought of vicariously experiencing it for the first time.

The LP version of this album contains the exclusive track "Rudy's Lounge." I can easily see why it was left off the record. The soft crooning guitars belie the reverb tsunami that is the rest of the record. I never thought much of it. That was until I realized the samples from the song were from the pinball machine, Funhouse. My favorite band wrote a song about pinball that I had listened to for a decade and never knew it. I love the song now. Art is tricky.

I'm in love with the sounds guitars make. Guitars sing. And I'll never fully understand people who need vocals in their music to enjoy it.  I'd read a romance novel from a Telecaster to a Twin Reverb. Man or Astro-Man is my instrumental Adele.

Surf gets relegated to movie soundtracks and is largely overlooked as a musical genre. It's gems are rare, but they shame a diamond. I'll probably end up writing about all their records, but I happen to listen to their debut first. It put me on a journey to the stars which The Ventures started, but has yet to reach its final destination.  

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