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Surf sounds from space

By Steve Auto of Point Blank Poznan

Posted September 02, 2015
Man or Astro-Man? live
Man or Astro-Man? Possibly the latter. © MOAM?

Steve Auto gets abducted by Man or Astro-Man?, ETs sent to Earth to play surf music.

Right, I've been asked to pen another one of these little pieces for the Rake & Herald and the mighty Man or Astro-Man? (MOAM?) seems as good a band as any to continue with.

Nobody's ever really seemed to get to the bottom of them.

Is there a hyphen or not?

Is it just one band?

They don't seem to know themselves.

But who gives a toss when surf music is played this well?

They're a strange bunch indeed.

Decked out in cyber-space gear, Birdstuff, Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard and Trace Reading (plus numerous other space-cadet guitar warriors) have been entertaining earthlings since the early 1990s with punk-surf riffs fused with B-movie quotes that the likes of Dick Dale and Bruce Campbell could only dream of.

But let us not be too harsh.

If it wasn't for the aforementioned Dick Dale and the likes of Link Wray and Duane Eddy, then MOAM? wouldn't be gracing our stereos today.

Early albums such as Destroy All Astromen! and Is It ... Man or Astroman? threw up classics such as Name of Numbers and Eric Estrotica – catchy tunes with fantastic tremolo-licks for which no lyrics are needed.

A couple of their more bizarre tunes are Cattle Drive, which starts off rodeo-style before the ska rhythms and mooing kick in, and Simple Text File, a song for which the space crew decide to substitute their standard instruments for photocopiers and printers.

Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps, but ones which no hardened fan can ignore.

Man or Astro-Man? fix their lasers
Set to stun: MOAM? fine-tune their phasers. © MOAM?

In the late 1990s, MOAM? began to ditch the B-movie intros and dabble more with experimental sounds and it was around this time that this here author began to get into them.

Lyrics started to appear and the cool surf licks were replaced with palm-muting and a more heavy sound.

A different approach, but the surf-roots still bubbled under the surface.

Made from Technetium is perhaps one of 1997's most underrated albums – dark, brooding and just ready to explode.

Great artwork and a great new sound for the band.

I think I've still got the "£4.00 – second hand" sticker on the CD case and it was £4 ($6) well spent.

Doubting me?

Stick on Junk Satellite or Jonathan Winters Frankenstein and you'll soon change your mind.

The EEVIAC Operational Index and Reference Guide, Including Other Modern Computational Devices album followed two years later and continued where its predecessor left off.

The first track, Interstellar Hardrive, gives a glimpse back to the days of old.

But don't get too comfortable...

D:Contamination is as head-fucking as you'll get.

MOAM? entertain guest on the mothership
On board the mothership: MOAM? entertain some alien friends. © MOAM?

As if MOAM? wasn't confusing enough, in 1998 the lads decided to send out a group of clones to play their gigs under the name of Man or Astro-man Clone Tour Alpha, a kind of modern-day cover-version act, if you will.

So successful were they, a year later a second Gamma Clone group were dispatched.

At one point, nobody knew who they were watching.

But who really cares which version of the band you're listening to?

When the music is this good, you'd be daft not to be signing up for more.

Long live Man or Astro-Man?

That's not a question but a statement.

I think.

Chief hack's note: Well, while the grammarians and linguists wrestle with that one, why not treat your ears to a load of MOAM? handpicked by Steve himself and embedded here on the tune-tastic Rake & Herald from the respective YouTube channels of Lembo101; TralfamadorianRed; Oliver Bernal; moarinternets; Felipe Johnson; Lembo101 (again); and crewzep.

What's more, according to the band's
FaceBook page (from where we nabbed the above photos), they've got a gig lined up at the Empty Bottle in Chicago this coming September 11 followed by another the next night at Case Western University in Cleveland. So, if you fancy dropping by from a neighbouring solar system, why not go see 'em? From what I've heard, they fucking rock.

See also Send more robots, posted 29/7/15.

Steve Auto
is the editor of Poz-based punk and alternative music fanzine Point Blank Poznan, a publication we've very kindly been allowed to lift a fair few stories from, such as this one here for example. Cheers, Steg! There's a load of whelks down the back of the sofa if you're hungry.

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