The year was 1995 when Spacehog hit the world with their silver-bullet hit, “In the Meantime”. It was the era when Oasis was gonna live forever, when Kurt Cobain sightings were rivaling ones of Elvis, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers could do whatever they wanted and everybody cared. Rock music was big and bold and everywhere, singers opened their mouths wide, world domination seemed eminent. It was as though, for a moment, music had descended from another planet and, lord, were we in trouble.
Which makes you wonder, today, where in the world is Spacehog? Or maybe a better question is, why in the world is Spacehog? Or better yet, from what world is Spacehog? On their third release, The Hogyssey, Spacehog confirms suspicions that while they may not have been on another planet for the past several years, they appear unaware that the musical world has evolved.
The biggest disappointment on The Hogyssey is that it sounds like little more than an addendum to their first big album. While they were innovative with their intergalatic sounds back in 1995, the same gimmicks in 2001 sound overdue, and even, well, over. The opening track, “Jupiter’s Moon”, opens with a short acoustic solo before plunging into a reverberating distortion ala R.E.M.’s Monster. Next, Royson Lagdon’s voice sneaks in, pointlessly apologizing for its size, like Shaquille O’Neal trying to sneak in to that open seat in front of you at the movies. I mean, come on. It’s not like you’re not going to notice. The rest of the song, though expertly produced and neatly layered, hangs together unconvincingly. “This Is America” opens much more boldly — with the sort of pulsing guitar riffs you like to think went away with the Presidents of the United States of America — and clinches the disappointment with lyrics, “The Statue of Liberty / Lost her virginity to me.” It’s speaking to pop-culture-gone-crazy, overstimulated, do-nothing/know-nothing nihilism, but sounds more like it was written from that vantage point rather than having anything more to say about it. When Lagdon sings “Whatever happened to you / Whatever happened to me / I think that says it all,” it really does. I don’t know what happened, either.
This isn’t to say that the entire album is a loss, though. There’s a couple of really worthy numbers. The large-and-in-charge “I Want to Live” matches an “Eye of the Tiger”-esque triumphalism with fun cock-rocky guitar and drums. “Dancing on My Own” has a bizarre, faraway charm. Even the least satisfying songs harbor that stick-like-chewing-gum-to-the-bottom-of-your-shoe kind of quality to them. Parts of the album are charming, whitty even, and Spacehog has enough heart to not take themselves too seriously. But basically they spend most of this album trying too hard to emulate others — Eddie Van Halen, David Bowie on an off day, themselves in 1995. And they spend too little time taking altenative rock — which, arguably, they’re one of the few purveyors of these days — to a place where it’s doing something new.
I was in high school when they were in their heyday, and it was a time of routine Spacehog when everybody truly believed there was nothing beyong flannel, headbanging, and watching 120 Minutes. At the time, Spacehog offered a glimpse into the future Spacehog the direction that alternative rock could go with a little courage and penache. I just wish someone had told Spacehog that they’d need to keep on pushing the envelope.