Laika and the Cosmonauts: Absurdistan

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By David Sakowski

There was a brief moment in popular music in America when an instrumental song by the Ventures or Dick Dale wasn’t out of place in the top 10 alongside Elvis or the Beatles. Although it might seem that radio has closed ranks completely on the instrumental song, one sneaks in every decade or so. Given instrumental music’s capacity to set a scene or mood without words, it’s no surprise that it’s usually a film theme to land on the radio. The themes to Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and Beverly Hills Cop were all top 10 hits in their day. Over the last decade though, bands like Los Straitjackets, The Mermen, Man or Astroman?, and Laika and the Cosmonauts have been wordlessly ushering in the wonders of instrumental music to a whole new generation of college kids who probably think Santo and Johnny are Mexican wrestlers. There’s something about instrumental music that cannot be described by…um, words.

Laika and the Cosmonauts (who take their name from the first dog shot into space by the Russians) have been turning out amazing instrumental music for nearly a decade. Absurdistan is the perfect title for Laika and the Cosmonauts latest CD as it is their most futuristic and stylistically experimental to date. The songs are still chock full of Dick Dale meets the Ventures style precision guitar, but there’s glimpses of techno, industrial and electronica giving the songs a totally new spin. While bands like Man or Astroman?, and the Mermen have been pushing the boundaries of instrumental rock, Laika and the Cosmonauts simply defy those boundaries. Most instrumental bands are from the surf-inspired school of vocal-less rock, while Laika and the Cosmonauts come from Finland, and a more, well…absurd school of thought.

Absurdistan has many highlights from the James Bond-meets-techno of “Disconnected”, to the industrial thrash of “Look! No Head”. There are familiar themes such as the Dick Dale in outer space “Boris the Conductor”, and the spaghetti western feel of “Circumstantial Evidence”. The CD ends with the remix of one of the songs on the CD, “The Hypno-Wheel”, titled “Reinventing the Hypno-Wheel”, which is perhaps a fitting metaphor for this album. Laika and the Cosmonauts have always been in their own world and with Absurdistan, they may not have reinvented the wheel, but they’ve given their world a brand new spin.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/laikaandthecosmonauts-absurdistan/