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Astral Astronauts


Spoozys’ press release declares that its subjects “are not from outer space; they come from Tokyo, Japan.” It is probably not an indispensable fact that Spoozys are Japanese. Most American and British musicians still behave like teenagers caught masturbating when the term “New Wave” pops up. Few English-speaking groups are bold enough to tread too closely to anything that might be associated with the self-consciously avant-garde early ‘80s, so it is left to these Japanese natives, who are either brave or naïve, to revive the anti-genre genre.

Thank God Spoozys aren’t afraid to use synthesizers for creating more than just techno. While some of their songs show the group dipping their toes into modern dance styles, Spoozys also embrace the kitsch and self-consciousness of unabashed arty pop, what might even be (gasp!) labeled New Wave. It seems that Spoozys build on this image visually, too. While researching this obscure little band on the Web, I encountered a number of photographs of them performing (at CBGB, of course), in astronaut suits complete with bubble helmets obscuring their faces. Anyone who remembers the mysterious Invisible Sex in the film Urgh! A Music War will appreciate this gesture immensely.

Spoozys’ influences include Japanese underground heroes the Plastics, as well as our own equally beloved and maligned Devo and B-52’s. Not surprisingly, Spoozys have adopted these groups’ love of the simultaneously retro and futuristic topics of flying saucers and space aliens into their lyrics. At least it seems so. The lyrics are sung in mostly indecipherable broken English, but between the snippets that are distinguishable and the feel of the music, listeners will get the idea.

The music on Astral Astronauts, Spoozys’ first U.S. release, ranges from techno to garage rock, with snippets of funk and surf guitar thrown in for good measure. Maintaining a consistently frenetic pace, Astral Astronauts is a heady blend of UFO bleeps, thrashing guitar, snarling punk singing, and sterile robot voices that never loses its momentum. At the very least, the results are entertaining; at times, they are downright impressive. Take, for instance, “Kuukusutte Hakudake,” which brings to mind the murky white funk experiments of Talking Heads and features edgy yet melodic guitar reminiscent of Carlos Alomar’s work with David Bowie. At other times, Spoozys bring to mind such almost-heroes as Klaus Nomi, Nina Hagen, Gary Numan, and the actress who sang the unforgettable “Me and My Rhythm Box” in Liquid Sky.

Don’t think for a minute, however, that Spoozys are a retro band. The true brilliance of Astral Astronauts is its ability to stir a pang of longing for the big-haired days of old while, to use a term of which Spoozys themselves would likely approve, boldly going where no man has gone before.

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