Spacehog’s last album was 2001’s Hogyssey, a criminally under-rated album. But, then, if you ask me, all of Spacehog’s albums have been criminally under-rated. Their 1995 debut, Resident Alien, sold very well, but it really only spawned one hit, “In The Meantime,” which also happens to be their only U.S. hit ever, so, sadly, they are considered a one-hit wonder here. (I have no idea if they’ve had other hits in other countries.) I could go on and on about how wonderful their first three albums are, but it makes more sense to turn your attention to their new album, As It Is On Earth. An album twelve years in the making. Sort of. Technically, it only took them a year or two to make — I’m not sure exactly how long — but their fans, such as myself, had to wait 12 years for it. So, we were waiting almost as long as we had to wait for Guns N’ Roses to finally get around to releasing Chinese Democracy (another criminally under-rated album). When you wait that long for a band to release a new album, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. They could put out their best album ever but somehow it’s not going to measure up to their past achievements. People will say they’re trying too hard to sound modern instead of sounding like themselves. Or they’ll curse them for still sounding like a ’90’s band, perhaps even chastising them for trying to re-write past hits. You get the idea. Suffice to say that we, the thirsty Spacehog fans, were bound to be let down by their new album, As It Is On Earth. Only, guess what? We weren’t. Miraculously, it might even be their best album to date. One thing is for certain: the magic is still there.
Boldly, the band opted to begin As It Is On Earth with a seven minute song, “Deceit.” A lot of people get irritated by long songs, so in all likelihood you’re automatically going to rub people the wrong way by opening your album like that. But, the funny thing is, nobody seems to have noticed how long “Deceit” is. I’ve read countless Amazon reviews of the album, which are almost unanimously positive, and nobody is mentioning it. They didn’t even complain about it in Rolling Stone, which actually gave the album a very positive review. In fact, it was only when I started to play the album today that I noticed the song’s length in my iTunes window. I’d listened to the album at least 15 times already and had no idea the song was longer than your typical song. That’s probably because it’s one of those songs that gradually builds and builds, ultimately becoming something epic. It begins with piercing piano, a single, droning note played for nearly a minute as singer/bassist Royston Langdon sings — croons, really — about the end of the world and a suicide bridge. As it goes on, it gets progressively livelier as other instruments and layers and layers of vocals are added, crafting a remarkable, lush wall of sound. Ultimately, it’s like David Bowie covering a song by Pink Floyd. And I do realize that those are big names to throw around, but it truly is that triumphant.
As for the rest of the album, most of the songs are immediately rewarding. The sonically adventurous record is crammed with slick guitar hooks and deliriously catchy choruses.
“Love is a curious thing, but I fall, fall, fall for the curious thing,” goes the trippy and infectious chorus of the country-flavored “Curious Thing,” lulling you right in like a diabolical siren. “Bonnie And Clyde” is just as dreamy, evoking Queen or Electric Light Orchestra. “Wish You Well” is an alluring tune that reminds me of Styx.
“If I die, I die for you,” goes the ultra-mellow ballad “Cold Water,” which is so refreshing it almost feels as though cool water is gently washing your face.
The sleazy, glammy “Gluttony” quickly seizes you with its insanely fast tempo. Jonny Cragg pounds those skins so hard and fast you’d swear it was Dave Grohl attacking the drum kit. It’s a beast that easily rivals the best of Queens of the Stone Age, the instantly memorable tune the last Stone Temple Pilots album was sorely lacking. I’m not sure what it’s actually about but I can’t get it out of my head and don’t want to.
“Dinosaur” is the best song The Dandy Warhols never wrote. “My fucking agent, he just don’t return my calls,” Royston sings; the song is one lament after another, the band accusing themselves of being everything that their naysayers might say. “Old dinosaur,” they wail over and over, pointing out how old they are before anyone else gets a chance to. But, really, why should anyone regard a ’90’s band as being over the hill when much older bands like Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones are still plowing along? And, seriously, this Spacehog album is a thousand times more artistic than Aerosmith’s recent record, which tried way too hard to have hits and went largely ignored.
During the time they were away, the members of Spacehog somehow became better musicians and better artists — in the true sense of the word — and, yes, I dare say that As It Is On Earth is their best album. So far.