Saturday, September 6, 2008
ALBUM OF THE DAY
Hum - You'd Prefer an Astronaut, released 1995 (RCA)
Hailing from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, were a band for six years already before their first major label debut. This album, You'd Prefer an Astronaut, was well worth the wait however. Their sound is loud yet delicate, somber yet fiery, and filled with walls upon walls of feedback. Hum's singer, Matt Talbott has a heavenly vocal drone that compliments the luscious space rock atmospheres delivered by the guitars and bass. The drums are often complex and heavy, with strong driving rhythms that help traverse through the other worldly wanderings. Hum have often been noted as "one of the most timeless bands of the 90s." You'd Prefer an Astronaut might not be their best album, but it's definitely the one that caught my ears first.
"Having partially created what many felt was a template for the Smashing Pumpkins to become successful, Hum found itself in an unenviable spot when the lead single from its major-label debut, "Stars," became a hit precisely because of that sound. There's certainly a similar connection at points, what with some fierce, chopping feedback and crisp drum slams, but the lyrical portrait is less solipsistic and somehow the whole song feels more inspirational and dreamy for it. Like the song itself, then, You'd Prefer An Astronaut is, for all the similar love of psychedelic volume in service of emotion, its own beast, most specifically because of the singing. Talbott's lead vocals are much more restrained than Billy Corgan's aggro screams. Sounding crushed and regretful amid the surge and flow of the music, his singing generally feels very approachable, reflective rather than declarative. When he does let loose with screaming here and there, it's nowhere near as strained as Corgan, something which a lot of people might be terribly happy about. As for the music, the quartet can work up a thick head of steam without cloning Corgan or James Iha's metallic rampage, just that little more dreamier and muted around the corners. Songs like "The Pod" and "I'd Like Your Hair Long" certainly recall the chunkier punch of such Pumpkins numbers as "I Am One" and "Cherub Rock," but, again, they easily stand on their own. Elsewhere, the slow building shimmer and then release of "Why I Like the Robins" is very much the band's own individual creations, as is the soft, hurt drawl on "The Very Old Man" and the downbeat start of "I Hate It Too," for all things fire up towards the end." - Ned Raggett (allmusic.com)
This album may not serve as an instant favorite for some new listeners, but it certainly gets better with repeat listens. I liked it the first time I heard it, but I love it now, and consider it a true under appreciated masterpiece.
For fans of: Failure, My Bloody Valentine, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.
Posted by Dan Goldin at 9:45 PM