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There is something to be said of blissful ignorance when you’re writing music reviews. I’ve been abstaining from listening to the radio for well over two decades; this is not due to sheer snobbery, but more that I’m obsessive about dictating the material that meets my eardrums. Thus, there are certain trends that I get to be an outside observer on… and it also means I enter into most listening experiences devoid of bias or preconceived notions in most instances.
As such, when Spacehog’s recent release made its way onto my iPod, I wasn’t burdened with familiarity with their hit, “In the Meantime,” to determine the direction of my review. Having since dug into the dirt a bit (Bowie comparisons and pictures of Liv Tyler aside), I was simply impressed with the quality and content of the record. Thus, it has become the subject of our second installment of, “In Case You Missed It.”
It’s worth mentioning that I first began spinning As It is On Earth, Spacehog’s 2013 studio effort, I was on the heels of finishing up a piece about The Computers. Putting that in context, I had begun a full immersion in retro-rock and legitimately began to believe I’d been transported back into the late 60’s and early 70’s. The initial bars of, “Deceit,” the album’s opening track, evoked what I believeThe National would sound like should they suddenly make a sharp left-turn and mutate into a Beatles tribute band. If this sounds derogatory, obviously you’re not a golfer (Yes, it’s a Lebowski quote- get past it).
I make the Beatles comparison based on the versatility of the group’s compositions more than anything (taking nothing away from Bowie’s eclecticism, I assure you), though there are certainly sounds on the record evocative of the Fab Four. That said, the psychedelic soundscape created beneath Royston Langdon’s dulcet baritone in the opening bars of, “Deceit,” will surely point many in the Bowie direction- but it wasn’t my initial impulse. The song itself is lengthy, but I don’t feel it needlessly meanders. The dynamic builds tension as the song proceeds, culminating in lush and layered choral harmonies wafting atop a bed of jangling acoustic guitar and a pulsing, insistent bassline on the outro. This ultimately makes the tune more reminiscent of The Fleet Foxes to my ears than the God of androgyny… but, admittedly, I’m a neophyte to the Spacehog appreciation club – and had to be lead to the Bowie comparisons.

The most impressive aspect of this record is its diversity of sound. Like many of my favorite albums, As It is On Earth is a classic genre-bender more concerned with quality songwriting than cramming itself into a generic musical catch-all. The group is at the height of their Beatle-esque Brit-Rock on, “Curious Thing,” the record’s second track, but they leap off that precipice and straight into a gritty Thin Lizzy rocker with, “Gluttony,” for track three. “Now I’m Only Dreaming,” is a Pink-Floyd-esque piano ballad that slides into the moody space-rock single, “Try To Remember.” The band covers the genre gauntlet like a stretching cat, expertly and effortlessly shifting in and out of myriad styles from track to track like dolphins gliding through choppy surf.

The group’s Queen influence shows brilliantly on, “Bonnie & Clide,” with expressive piano pads surging beneath mellifluous multi-part harmonies to craft one of the record’s most beautiful moments. “Wish You Well,” opens the throttle in the intro, yet carefully regulates the energy throughout the remainder of the track to give it the feel of a bridled mustang always on the cusp of breaking into a sprint; a perfect display of the dynamic prowess and skill of the band.
Fans of rock in its many facets will definitely be satisfied with Spacehog’s efforts on this album. The record is complex, catchy and expertly executed at every interval. Yes, gossamer strands of Bowie do glaze the project from start to finish, but that’s certainly not to say that description encapsulates the effort. There are many underpinnings sprinkled throughout each track that tip their hat to Acid-Rock, melodic Indie, Folk and Soul as well- making their effort a rich melange more than straight-ahead Rock record.
As such, if you’ve placed Spacehog in a box labelled “90’s Alt-Rock,” you may want to reconsider the Schrodinger’s Cat treatment and see what they’re up to these days… It will surprise you.



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