Brian Coney On The Moonlandingz' Interplanetary Class Classics
, March 16th, 2017 12:48
In The Moonlandingz first full-length offering as a non-fictional outfit, Brian Coney finds a record that refuses to wear only one mask – futurist without revivalism, acerbic but with swagger – and throws off with gusto any accusations of the term side-project
A self-proclaimed "celebration of the outsider, the depressed, the sexually inept, the disenfranchised, the politically unengaged or undecided, the bullied, the lonely, those people at point break" it doesn’t take one very long to recognise that Interplanetary Class Classics by one-time semi-fictitious proposition The Moonlandingz is a slithering exhibition in psychic absolution, where conviction – above all else – serves as currency in the free-market of the fact that it’s all gone a bit to shit.
Having birthed themselves as an imagined band from fictional Yorkshire town Valhalla Dale on Eccentronic Research Council’s 2015 concept album Johnny Rocket, Narcissist And Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan – thus introducing themselves as a kind of Crisis Loan Gorillaz; a Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem for the bedroom taxed – this is a debut that, disengaged with any concrete sense of real-world topographical allegiance, aims beyond the stratosphere by way of teasing out fetid theatre from the mire that is the human mind in all its tragic splendor.
In fact, recorded with Sean Lennon in his upstate New York studio following a few months of regimented, pub-then-to-work demoing in Sheffield, the environmental discrepancy at the source of its creation only serves to underline The Moonlandingz’ alien constitution; an outfit – comprising Eccentronic Research Council’s Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer, Fat White Family frontman Lias Saoudi AKA Johnny Rocket and Saul Adamczewski – whose solipsism and gall carries more weight than their derivation. If waking up and getting on with it must happen regardless, Valhalla Dale, Sheffield and Manhattan are but one and the same nowhere.
Strutting out of the shadows, a bleary-eyed brute sick of putdowns and emotional down-payments, the cosmic stomp of opener ‘Vessels’ doesn’t as much as set the tone here as avow it. Melding slabs of filthy synth, Flipper-esque brays of sax and spooked-out, Cave-like histrionics courtesy of Saoudi, it’s an opening gambit that asserts just how easy vulnerability – namely “how easy it is to fall” – breeds mania and the need for a stable, if not permanent way-out. But as soon as its successor and early highlight ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ bursts into inverted Technicolor with Saoudi’s squealed refrain of “I don’t feel alright” (a perfectly simple act of amity levelled at the privately pained) it’s obvious there’s no escape hatch at the end of the sinking ship; no garden wall to scale in the shady cul-de-sac. Making themselves heard in the whirling smog of the everyday, this is the sound of a band reporting back from the cusp of sanity and the precipice of reason, kicking their heels in the burnt-out basement of the shitty Zeitgeist.
Featuring Ross Orton on drums and bass by Mairead O'Connor, the creative immunity that was offered The Moonlandingz in Lennon's studio is gradually revealed in the sprawling scope of textures found throughout Interplanetary Class Classics. From the skittering experimentation of knowingly daft masterclass ‘Neuf Du Pape’ to the end-of-pier psycho-sleaze of ‘Glory Hole’ (which features none other than Randy Jones from Village People) the band successfully distil that limitless sense of leeway of their live show with a level of pure confidence that occasionally veers into braggadocio with teeth-clenched authority. With Flanagan having said “It was great to have the freedom to try stuff without some engineer watching the clock,” their brand of squalid psych futurism – which sidesteps deifying revivalist formulas – has the room to find where it clearly wants to go. And underpinning that, as well as tempering Flanagan and Saoudi’s more darkly, even masochistic moments, is sheer impervious glam swagger. Akin to Marc Bolan being bolted in a Sheffield social club with only crates of knockoff rotgut to keep him company, it all gets a bit wretched in the most wonderfully sticky, bombastic and self-satisfied way.
Whilst lead single ‘Black Hanz’ – a real feat of flouncing electro-psych – and ‘The Strangle of Anna’ (which conjures Velvet Underground covering Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’ in a cold-water just as the sun reluctantly comes up) are surefire peaks, it’s the curiously congruent appearance of Yoko Ono on six-minute closer ‘The Cities Undone’ that seals the deal here. With its White Hills-esque, clannish groove and goading mantra, the track provides a solid, reiterative basis for Ono to cut loose in typically brazen form. Exorcising both what comes before it on the record and something much bigger than themselves beyond it, it makes for a fitting flame-out on a record that really grapples with the exterior forces that conspire to reduce us all to one-dimensional ragdolls paralysed by fear. With Ono hollering “get on with it” in a fit of possessed, vibrato-soaked abandon, one can’t help but emerge concurrently drained and galvanized.
Having yet to shed the skin of their once exclusively contrived existence (the narrative is upheld in sublime, all-too-brief fashion on ‘Theme From Valhalla Dale’ here) Interplanetary Class Classics is indeed an instant classic and a release that confirms The Moonlandingz as a fully-fledged proposition who are not only at least equal to the sum of the parts but also one whose clout beyond the stage offers a whole new realm of murky and majestic discovery. Quintessential outcasts, Flanagan, Honer, Saoudi, Adamczewski and co. have unraveled the sweet spot between countless relatively tricky dichotomies: from fabulous to hyper-cool, hard-hearted to camp and impermeable to boundlessly fragile. Forging bombast with bravura, silliness with sentiment and homage with fist-clenched individuality, this is a trip worth taking, especially for those already acquainted. Like a defiant and brilliantly bonkers case of cosmic ordering coming off with flying colours, this is a release that – perhaps more than any of its main players associated projects – doubles up celebration of the possible. And how.