Almost 40 years ago ‘Johnny B. Goode’ was famously blasted into space so the hard-riffing duck-walking genius of Chuck Berry could be rediscovered by the generations of the distant future, or for any extraterrestrial life forms with an interest in 1950s popular music to wrap their tentacles round. Released less than a week after the influential pioneer passed away and joined the great gig in the sky, ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ proves rock’n’roll is still alive and swaggering in the form of the solar system’s newest sensation The Moonlandingz.
The illicit brainchild of vocalist Lias Saoudi and guitarist Saul Adamczewski, of Fat White Family fame, and members of The Eccentronic Research Council, the group were first imagined in a fictional form on the mainly spoken word album ‘Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine… I’m Your Biggest Fan’. The Moonlandingz may now have crashed through the fourth wall into the realms of the real, but that doesn’t stop their synth-heavy brand of punk-enthused rock-outs from channelling an alternate universe of deviant sexual habits where rabid werewolves are likely to change your drinking habits.
The record blasts off with the insistent glam-rock stomp of ‘Vessels’. An unhinged vocal performance oozing with sleaze from Lias Saoudi’s alter ego Johnny Rocket sets the lecherous agenda while a gnarly electro bassline is joined by various warped synthesisers, building to a crescendo of galactic proportions.
‘Sweet Saturn Mine’ keeps the tempo up with a chorus inverting The Stooges ‘1970’ to addictive effect. Keener fans will know the track has been kicking around since the group’s first EP appeared two years ago, though, so it seems odd that the equally punchy ‘Drop It Fauntleroy’ from last year’s ‘Black Hanz’ EP didn’t find a place on the tracklist. The minute or so of ‘Theme From Valhalla Dale’ also adds little apart from a change in tempo and a bit of b-movie carnival horror.
Cataloguing grievances aside there’s plenty of urgent beats, erratic vocal turns and electronic noise to keep the album in a high orbit. ‘Glory Hole’ is a grimy space-aged blues rocker, while the more laid back groove and airy high-octave vocals of ‘Lufthansa Man’ recall moments from Fat White Family’s latest studio effort ‘Songs For Our Mothers’.
Of the many characters involved in the project, all seem to gravitate around producer Sean Ono Lennon. Charlotte Kemp Muhl, singer in Lennon-fronted group The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, briefly joined the group at the outset and directed their occult themed video for ‘Sweet Saturn Mine’, while The Fat White’s Saul Adamczewski has since been collaborating with Lennon on the upcoming Black Lips record. ‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ was polished off at Lennon’s upstate New York studios ensuring the layers spacey synth-work came out razor-sharp, and also that Sean could bring his mother along for an appearance.
Somehow the electronic-driven sound and cartoonish delivery of ‘This Cities Undone’ allow a bit of weirdness to thrive. Yoko Ono’s unintelligible wailing is less intrusive on the album closer than it has been in the past, say like in the middle of when Sean’s father John Lennon was performing ‘Memphis Tennessee’ with his hero… Chuck Berry.
If NASA is reading, there’s one from The Moonlandingz for the next space capsule.
‘Interplanetary Class Classics’ is out now on Transgressive Records