PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Alan Astor: Everything is Possible

John Bergstrom

Emotive, danceable, industrial-tinged genius pop gets all dressed up on the debut by NYC scenester Astor. Sometimes the costume fits; sometimes it doesn't.

Alan Astor

Everything is Possible

Label: Mental Monkey
US Release Date: 2005-04-05
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

With his unkempt hair, scruffy beard, bulging eyes, and casual clubwear, Alan Astor looks like Rasputin reborn as some kind of rave underground icon. Indeed, the music on his debut album, Everything is Possible, is no less brash. The prodigiously-talented New Yorker's lyrics dissect the self-absorbed, chic-enslaved NYC scene just as his over-the-top, techno-plated music celebrates it. This juxtaposition results in an always entertaining and occasionally thrilling listen. Like a Broadway show, it feels just right when you're out on the town, but its impression has largely worn off by the next morning. There's substance here, all right, but it's nearly trounced by style and ambition.

"Fantastic Fantasy" would be a showtune if it didn't have such up-to-date drum'n'bass rhythms and synthesizer squelches. That's not a bad thing, because what you have is a highly danceable showtune, complete with obnoxiously catchy chorus. "There's No Shame" is one of a trio of songs on Everything� that mix up slow-grinding funk with industrial clatter in a Nine Inch Nails-influenced fashion. On these tracks, even the meter and phrasing of Astor's singing recalls Trent Reznor. But if Reznor's sound is down'n'dirty, Astor's is fresh'n'clean and less conceited.

"Shame" is also ample evidence of Astor's talent for penning meaningful lyrics to complement his carefully-crafted music. With lines like, "There's a crack in between every word you speak", he cuts the fashionistas down to size. And, to keep the balance, there's a winning, naively melodic chorus that sounds like it could have come from Human League's synthpop masterpiece Dare. "Astral America" mixes melody with machines in a more straight-on anthemic fashion, while "Dragons and Beasts" serves up more electro-funk, but with a weak chorus that doesn't hold up its end of the bargain.

"The World Is a Lot" is a nice change of pace. A "boy lost in the Big City" ballad, embellished with melodramatic strings and timpani, it really does belong on Broadway. The mellow mood continues with "Play the Night Away", which adds an electro pulse and spaced-out, Eastern-sounding synth melody. Again, the focus is on the metropolis, with Astor wondering at "City people ignoring directions / Jumping from the tops of buildings". Here, he comes off as a less nasal version of Placebo's Brian Molko, and it works. Just as you're getting lost amid the bright lights and scurrying clubgoers, though, "Power After Hours" breaks the spell with clumsy, distorted, OTT rock.

Everything is Possible's penultimate track is probably its most fun. "Baby Don't Let Me Make It to Monday" is just the kind of hedonistic romp that its title suggests, completing the electro-funk trilogy and throwing in some disco just for the hell of it. "I Couldn't Have Survived Without You" plays as a kind of postlude, a piano ballad whose repeated chorus swells with layers of effects and reverb. But Astor does disillusionment better than he does gratitude; though well-intentioned, the song comes off as trite. As an encore, you get two remixes of "Fantastic Fantasy": an industrial dance version that's awful, and a drum'n'bass treatment that's more natural.

In theme and tone, Everything is Possible is like a midway point between NIN's Pretty Hate Machine and Pet Shop Boys' Behavior. You get the picture of Astor, a sensitive yet frustrated young man, sitting in his bedroom in front of his laptop, the city outside feeding him and killing him all at once.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.