Calling All Astronauts: Post Modern Conspiracy – album review

Calling All Astronauts – Post Modern Conspiracy
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Move over Daft Punk, our reviewer ‘CHARD says Calling All Astronauts has captured the real sound of the summer with latest album Post Modern Conspiracy. 

8.5/10

Calling All Astronauts – David B (vocals, keys, programming), J Browning (guitar), and Kristi Bury (bass) – are evidently a crew steeped in a rich musical heritage. They’ve absorbed the mutant DNA of post-punk’s rich tapestry without really wearing their influences too much on their sleeve, whatever you may have been told.

Biographies and bloggers have mentioned the Sisters (I can buy that), plus Peter Murphy and New Order, who the band state as a favourite. Maybe, but CAA seem to have embraced the spirit and dissenter’s call of those days and fused it with a jackdaw’s hoard of fleetingly-familiar guitar motifs, vocal codas and rhythm runs that they reinvent and refreshingly make their own.

So, where are the real terms of reference, what are the subliminal nuances coming through? There are traces of early eighties: think James Stevenson’s guitar when he played with Kim Wilde, the nineties neurosis of Dean Garcia’s soundscapes with the legendary Curve, full-on guitar shredding of agit-rockers XC-NN, stuttered worldview of the Three Johns, even the claustrophobia of Lard or Ministry.

Elsewhere, CAA slice their guitar assault and couple it with semi-audible spoken-word tones of what can only be described as deep loathing, in a style not dissimilar to Pandemonium-era Killing Joke.

Personal and global politics are all fair game – CAA had already set expectations high with their trio of incendiary singles, all included here, yet somehow nurtured by their environment they are even stronger within the boundaries of Post Modern Conspiracy, and those boundaries tend to be shimmering if not illusory with every successive hearing.

Leading with debut single Someone Like You, one might think we’re on a trip to the clubs of ’83 Leeds as ghosts of Danse Society appear in the corners, but there are some lush hints at the widescreen here too. If we were left thinking Gene Loves Jezebel, those ideas quickly evaporate as ‘Freaks’ takes us closer to the Sisterhood, only for the nod to Was (Not Was) resetting the context button by 45 degrees.

By recent single What’s So Good About, the album has hit its stride, a glacial feel conjured by epic John McGeogh style riffs mashing up the mood into an almost Garbage arena anthem.

Scenesters Vs. The World is a catchy old school structure, which trades riffing choruses with a reflective element worthy of House of Love’s Terry Bickers.

Ignorance Is Not An Excuse is dubby: PIL meeting Crass in the Trance Tent after absinthe has been taken, the whole reminding the listener to revisit The Blood Uncles. It Could Have Been Lust is another immediate contender for a single, proving beyond doubt CAA’s gift with infectious hooks – especially worthy of mention is the soaring guitar break that elevates the song to another level two-thirds in.

Throughout this journey, David B has been cajoling and goading the neo-cons with portent, ‘this revolution will be televised,’ he intones; my mind’s eye sees the mall disorder of UK 2011.

Winter of Discontent – summer single of last year, is as fine a piece of protest writing as you’ll see grace the sloganeered walls of rock; Faith In Your Cause – which has been around in live form for a while, anchors the band’s convictions in the heart of politicized calls to action, set to a frenzied beatbox.

 

Feel The Pain (Again) is a return to the bona fide four square format, for three minutes’ furious intensity in the March Violets’ sleazy mosh pit. The intensity lets up briefly for the interlude that is, perversely, The Demise Of Society, which in its two minutes seems almost throwaway – part of its ironic charm – before the anthemic Red Flag brings the curtain down in classic set-closer style.

Any good test drive covers a range of environments, and I’ve now lived with this collection in all manner of moods – with the galvanizing first coffee of the day, staring into the sun at stacking summer planes above my cityscape, driving at night back from street-punk gigs, taking the edge off modern life with the first cold cider – and this is one such perfect accompaniment.

Its sense of ‘oneness’ as a complete work fits the listener like a second skin, its many moments of surprise and hidden details waiting to be discovered keeping it fresh for the next time you wriggle aboard.

Hey, Daft Punk, it’s CAA on the phone – they just nailed the real soundtrack to the summer…

You can download the album from CAA’s Bandcamp now.

All words by ‘CHARD. More work by CHARD on Louder Than War can be read here.

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  1. You smooth talker you! I’ve just ordered on the strength of that review!

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