Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 9/25/2007
posted on 12/2007 By:
When it comes to established subgenres, I’d normally tell you to put the new on the backburner and explore the old first. Sadly, I say that with experience. I’ve ruined decades and decades of a genre’s evolution by not subscribing to my own philosophy. Why? Because, for me at least, when you’ve gotten so used to being lightyears beyond the progenitors, those O.G. mavericks sound like they should be played on a cylinder phonograph. That blows, of course, because it takes honest to god work to appreciate that stuff once you’ve tainted the past with the future. So, I’ve always rationalized that portion of my musical philosophy like this: How are you supposed to appreciate your first junker car if you take your driver’s test in a brand new Porsche? Alright, true, it’s not the most convincing of arguments and it‘s borderline offensive to older groups, but it’s something that I’m going to stand by because, like I said, I’ve been there and it sucks. Hard. And that personal experience, for the most part, will usually make me beg you to get your feet wet with the beginnings of a style rather than rushing ahead. But, and I know this is going to generate a ton of flak, here is where I’ll make an exception. If you’re the least bit interested in checking out some space rock, pick up Litmus’ Planetfall.
Okay, first, a quick aside: Hawkwind fans, calm down. I’m still with you. Even though Planetfall is masterful in the way it brings most of the space rock clichés together for an incredibly catchy, engaging, and, most of all, accessible experience, Hawkwind is probably still the gold standard. It’s just that, uh, what should a newbie check out first? (Besides, you know, Stacia’s ample bosom). Their discography is huge (20+ studio albums? Damn) and, even the most ardent fan has to admit that their eccentricities don’t exactly make fickle newcomers feel welcome. Example: As soon as you make it to “The Wizard Blew His Horn” on Warrior on the Edge of Time, the passengers in your car will start shooting you wtf glances like they just noticed that you have a dried fetus hanging from your rearview mirror. (I know, it's an unfair example. Noted). Litmus, though, might work better for Johnny Metalhead (or Johnny InsertGenreHere, really), a listener whose sole experiences with space might be limited to Ufomammut or Sons of Otis (like me a couple of years back. I‘m still pretty green), because it rocks and, damn it, it never stops.
First track “Destroy The Mothership” sums up the entire album perfectly. A wash of spacey synths attempts to swallow up driving guitars, drums, and neat-o melodic bass lines while blue-collar vocals yelp sci-fi infused lyrics above the din. Oh, and did I mention that it will flatten you? Exhilarating? Oh yes! It’s like they bottled the energy of early Motörhead (a really easy reference in a review that mentions Hawkwind, I know), mixed it up with some of the harder moments from Levitation, and injected a slightly prog-minded artiness into the rockin’. And then, just when all of that has sunk in, “Tempest” kicks in and lays the previous track to waste, taking its best moments and amping everything up even further. In fact, that’s the trend that Litmus seems to fall into on Planetfall, as each full song (discounting the segues, of course) bests the one before it and even the fifteen minute “Under the Sign” and the seventeen minute “Expanding Universe (Twinstar Pt. 2)” don’t let up, laying solid solos on top of sometimes driving, sometimes grooving, sometimes pulsating bases that always get the foot a-tapping and the adrenaline a-rushing.
Of course, if you dig a bit too deeply, be prepared to be somewhat let down. Planetfall isn’t really an album for thinkers. A long, hard listen provides few subtle details that will contort your mug into an O-face, but I don’t think that was ever Litmus' plan. I get the feeling they were solely interested in exploring and updating part of what Hawkwind brought to the table, their fascinating duality; how a band can rock the hell out and be rather hypnotic at the same time. Here, the hypnotic portion comes from the glorious swaths of synths that create just enough drone, just enough noise, to fill up the empty spots (it kind of acts like the blackness between the stars, really. Kindly ignore the douchey poetic slant I put on that). Sure, it's just a surface element and it makes Planetfall sound deeper than it really is, but, again, it’s not an album that’s concerned with being deep. Hell no. Litmus kicks ass for seventy six(!) gratifying minutes and does so by expanding upon the template provided by one of the genre’s masters. And good god, is it fun. So much fun, I’m even waving the “No Cuts, No Butts, No Coconuts” clause in my musical philosophy and asking you, dear reader, to track this down ASAP if you’ve got a hankering for some space capital “R” rock.
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