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Plastic Overlords - 2012 - "Sonic Astronomy"

(63:34, ‘Fool's Errand’)


1.  Star Avenger 10:28
2.  You Crumble to Bits 3:40
3.  A Moment of Silence 8:05
4.  The Sunburst Going Sour 5:12
5.  Twelve Steps to Seventh Heaven 6:17
6.  Silver Sparks from the Holy Mountain 8:02
7.  Your Chariot Awaits 4:43
8.  Tea and Cake / Plastic Overlords 17:09


David Noel – vocals; bass; keyboards
Brad Johnson – drums, percussion
John Eades – guitars 
Eric Hand – guitars 

Prolusion. The US band PLASTIC OVERLORDS was formed and came to prominence in a few hectic weeks back in 2000, the band forming, recording and releasing their debut album in less than a month, and then disbanding while the positive reviews of that initial effort were still drying at the printers, more or less. 10 years later the band members all decide to give this another go, and salvaging the material from their brief initial phase is the first step. Two years later the material has been repaired, remixed and reworked, and then released on CD through the band’s own label Fool's Errand Records.

Analysis. Sometimes I get the feeling that matters have moved so fast or unexpected for some artists that certain details are overlooked. Erroneous track times on CD covers, line-up alterations with new or old musicians not credited and other instances of minor details forgotten for one reason or another. The 2010 copyright and production date stamped on this CD indicates that this outing is somewhat late to the party originally planned, for some reason or other. But thankfully that is just about the only negative remark I have to make on this disc. Because "Sonic Astronomy" is a charming piece of more or less progressive rock. One of those productions where you can track down possible influences ad infinitum, find likely references by the truckload, and eventually have to conclude that you are, in fact, dealing with a band that has managed to craft a rather distinct identity all of their own. If they manage to become popular enough to become a point of reference themselves at some point in time is of course another matter, which will have to be answered sometime in the future. But they do explore a relatively unique little corner of the progressive rock universe, that's for sure. On the subject of references: The Who were the first name that I pulled out of the hat in this case, quickly followed by Pink Floyd, with a few bits of Robin Trower and Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure alongside some nice Rush seasoning. All of this is cooked together in a ceramic pot made in a hippie commune in the late 60's or early 70's that possibly may have been used at a Black Sabbath or two as well. It's a rather unique blend of stylistic details, but the sheen of late 60's and early 70's psychedelic and heavy psychedelic are never far away in any of these constructions. The two core elements, so to speak, are harder edged more or less psych-flavored themes referencing The Who more than anything and gentler escapades with light toned cosmic Mellotron shivering on top of dampened, calm guitar textures in a manner that does bring Pink Floyd to mind. The steady drums and at times intricate circulating bass motifs add a character to both of these expressions harder to place within this or other contexts however, with Canadian trio Rush a possible reference in that department. For the occasions when staccato but melodic guitar riffs are utilized that suspicion is strengthened, and on a few rare occasions we're also treated to guitar soloing that sounds rather similar to vintage Rush. That they appear in sequences may also sport darker toned guitar details that may bring Black Sabbath to mind is an intriguing part of the proceedings, as are the somewhat more common blues-tinged, psych dripping guitar solos that could have been pulled from an early Robin Trower solo album or possibly Led Zeppelin. Describing this production without name dropping is next to impossible really, and I could probably throw in an additional dozen of references if describing this production in greater detail. But when you're at the stage of operating with more than a dozen possible influences, then it's much easier to just let go and credit the band for managing to form an identity of their own, or at least a form basis from which one will develop and establish itself. The interesting part of this is that Plastic Overlords have assembled all of the bits and pieces described and quite a few additional ones into compelling compositions. There's drive, energy and momentum that maintain a general interest, plenty of variety to sustain the interest over time, and as a strong identity marker we're treated to a lead vocalist that appears to be an ardent student of rock vocals UK style. There's a strong British atmosphere to the proceedings throughout and the vocals are the key element to provide and sustain that particular mood, in terms of accent, mannerisms and delivery in general, which suits this amalgam of partially psychedelic and partially cosmic rock very well indeed.

Conclusion. If you like psychedelic rock and space rock (progressive or not), Plastic Overlords is a band that merits your attention. A certain fondness for the good, old Mellotron is needed, a taste for The Who possibly required, and if you enjoy the gentler cosmic escapades of early to mid 70's Pink Floyd too you are hereby categorized as a member of this band's core audience, as I have a hard time trying to think of persons who might fit such a description that wouldn't love this CD.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 17, 2012
The Rating Room

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