|SOUNDCHECK MAGAZINE REVIEW:
January 8th, 2008
Aliens is tough to label, probably in part because Blake and Ed—the guitar-and-drum duo that comprises the band, and who
apparently prefer to use their first names only—have made it their mission to be. Not to be confused with The Beta Band offshoot
The Aliens, Austin’s own Aliens (note the lack of the “The”, as this will be important in tracking inevitable lawsuits later) might just be
single-handedly bringing something gritty back to our local music scene that we’ve been sorely missing. Sometimes they sound like
Helmet, sometimes Blake sounds like Thurston Moore or even “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”-era Michael Stipe, and
sometimes they just sound like sheer, unadulterated noise.
Any time a two-person band manages such a noisy sound, the band needs to be watched and possibly reckoned with. Though
Head First is their debut, Aliens has already garnered attention from local, longstanding rock bands. They have played at CBGB’s
and have somehow made songs like “Committed to Wind” and “Moving Parts” seem slightly familiar. Despite being young and fairly
scruffy compared to the skinny jeansed, carefully-coiffed hipster bands lurking around town, they’ve made pins and t-shirts and an
early gaggle of fans. All of this means that someday, if you’re any kind of savvy music consumer, you can point to your record shelf,
hold up the simple, bright album cover that depicts a swimmer clonking her head on a diving board, and say, “Look, I’ve got Aliens’
first album.” You will thus impress the pants off your unsuspecting guest.
|SIDE ONE : TRACK ONE
ALIENS Song: "Stow Away" Album : "Head First"
I got this CD to review a few months ago, thinking I'd have to sharpen my critical teeth, but I ended up liking it quite a bit. It shows
a different side of Austin, specifically the side that sounds like R. E. M. and Dinosaur Jr. in a blender. Aliens main-man Blake
Sandberg runs Misc. Music here in Austin, which also carries Jad Fair (of Half Japanese), so it's safe to say he knows a thing or
two about making good original music. While this song does sound like a toss back to a harder R. E. M., the rest of the album
ventures into new areas of rock which will hopefully be expanded on soon. Aliens are about to embark on a tour all over the US.
I suggest you catch them if they come through your town.
SIDE ONE : TRACK ONE
|AUSTIN SOUND REVIEW:
Aliens – Committed to Wind CD(Misc. Music)
The first release from new Austin label Misc. Music is an adequate enough representation of their self-described
“dysfunctional music.” Aliens is a guitar in search of a band to fill out the pounding punk sound, but said guitar manages to
kick up a decent amount of ruckus through loops and some help on drums. Lead singer Blake’s vocals seem to take cues
more from 90’s alternative than punk, with the lead single “Committed to Wind” especially seeming to move around any number
of the prototypical early 90’s radio rockers right before their break. But if the singing is blurring those lines, it’s a credit to
Aliens that they inject some lo-fi skuzzy energy and urgency back into the genre. Their true sound is best represented on the
three live cuts from a 2005 show at CBGB. On “Reflex Motor” Blake yells out harsh mantras across rusty guitar riffs while DJ
High Priest works the turntables and drum loops in the back with his own “High Priest Breakdown.” And “Watch and Learn”
swirls ferociously with a drawn out apathetic howl and intermittent bark of “God damn it anyhow,” a sound that would work well
on a bill with another local punk duo, “Shoot for the Stars…and Kill Them.” If Aliens can match that live punk force on their
studio tracks, maintaining the raw energy with more polished recording, they just might kill a few stars themselves.
|COVERT CURIOSITY REVIEWS:
ALIENS Head First January 28th, 2008
I'm feeling a bit lost today. It's almost like the two sides of my brain are fighting against each other. Most of the time my Mondays are
slow and casual, but this one has been weird and oddly hectic. I feel disoriented. Maybe if I push some noise between both ears at
high volume I can force the two sides of my brain to work in unison. I am compelled to put on the debut album from Aliens, a local
guitar/drum duo. I have had it for weeks but haven't gotten all the way through it yet. Perhaps they can show me how to relieve this
overwhelming sense of disequilibrium. They are Aliens, after all.
I put their record on, and it is loud. Loud is good on a day like this. Louder. It sounds angry, yet rational. It sounds desperate, yet
focused. It is direct, with no frills. It is raw and gritty. It borders on being fierce, like the soundtrack to a fistfight between friends. It is
exactly what I needed today, a kick in the ass. As soon as it stops, I begin dazing off again. Better start it over from the beginning….
- MR. CURIOSITY / COVERT CURIOSITY BLOG
REVIEWS ALIENS “HEAD FIRST”
….my initial impression was that their take on Rock n’ Roll might be “out of this world” (read: “unlistenable”). On the contrary, the
music, once I actually listened to it, is anything but. It’s an interesting mix between late 80’s radio-rock and simple punk riff-based
songs. For a more in depth analysis, I had originally constructed a story detailing, in part, a spaceship flown by They Might Be
Giants’ John Linnell who has thrown overboard the band’s unique instrumentation in order to achieve a near-lightspeed velocity fast
enough to tear apart an unsuspecting spaceship piloted by R.E.M and built by Dinosaur Jr. with a daring kamikaze raid. Somewhere
along the way, I realized I’d been watching Wing Commander far too often these days.
Aliens are the product of Blake Sandberg who after starting the band in New York, relocated to Austin. Aside from Sandberg’s vocal
and guitar contributions, the band features both electronic drums, and a rotating group of drummers, including Hunt Sales (of Iggy
Pop) and Raanen Bozzio (the son of Terry Bozzio, drummer for Frank Zappa). The album itself, the first studio LP from the group
is….a fine example of the band’s ability to expertly blend two of the most influential genres in music.
Probably the best example of this is the album’s third track, “Stow Away.” As the song begins, a clean-channel guitar and simple bass
line combined with Sandberg’s less-than-punk vocals are almost indistinguishable from your favorite R.E.M record, but then the
chorus kicks in with heavily distorted guitars, and the drums take off leaving Peter Buck in the dust. The punk influences are brought
to bear; the simple hooks, the feedback buildups, the excessive power chords, it’s all there.
Aside from a few exceptions, the better songs on the album are the ones that follow the same “hybrid” concept as “Stow Away.” The
more notable exceptions are “Guinea Pig” (with Hunt Sales behind the kit) which, not surprisingly, has a more classic punk sound
complete with raw-themes
(“I’m your guinea pig, try it out on me”) and “Reflex Motor” which sees a more aggressive side of Sandberg’s vocals and a much
looser structure. Then of course there’s the last track “Alien Mind Control,” a Daniel Johnston cover that has a truly unique blend of
electronic noise and soft guitar accompaniment that segues into an acoustic section that reads more like an afterthought than an
On a whole, the album is everything you would expect from a guy who takes his vocal cues from They Might Be Giants' answering
machine and plays guitar with all the edge of the DIY-era rockers. And again, the best songs are the ones that stay true to the
simple but effective cross-genre combinations. …
- John Michael Cassetta “AUSTIN SOUND”
|TOXIC PETE (Peter J Brown) REVIEW:
Raw, edgy and blindingly intoxicating, 'Head First' is the debut album release from Austin, Texas reality-rocksters Aliens. With nowt
really complicated but loads of punkish fluidity, Aliens beat out their electrifying nu-punk with a true grit and intense angularity.
Infectious as clap but much more pleasant to live with, 'Head First' takes things down to street level with a lo-fi rhythmic melee that's
driven by incessant guitar chords and a ferociously savage percussive engine room. Vocally, Aliens make sweet noise happen from
humble and non-too-showy but honest and occasionally grungy outpourings that are totally suited to the refreshingly organic and
minimalist instrumental backdrop. Altogether, Aliens sound is gritty, pounding and compelling; nothing about Aliens sounds
pretentious or self-indulgent, Aliens appear to write and play from somewhere deep inside the gut rather than the heart and their
energetic but tantalising roots punk/rock is hemmed by tattered seams and frayed edges that allow freedom of movement and
unrestricted ebb of flow of murky waves of sound that suck you in and hold you fast until you're drunk on Aliens' home brew of
'Head First' by Aliens is kick-ass nu-punk with a big rockin' twist. Aliens' stripped-back sound is as simple as it is powerful; a basic but
smartly innovative cocktail of gritty rockin' sounds that cross genre boundaries and stick two fingers up at pretentious indie normality.
Aliens' music is 'now', it's honest, it's totally laid bare and it's a very pleasant change from most of what's going down at the mo'. 'Head
First' by Aliens is a simplistic but wholly enthralling work of gritty, powerful grunge-punk - great fun, massively likeable and a somewhat
delicious musical morsel that shoves conformity out the door and brings harsh reality to the party. I love it, it's just a no bullshit work
that gets down to business and spits in the face of indie convention and is all the better for its blatant grubbiness and off-the-street
'Committed To Wind' and 'Stow Away' can also be found on the splendid Aliens' album, 'Head First'; both absolutely typical of Aliens,
both great blasts of edgy poppy punk.
It's raw and it's laid bare but what Aliens do is pretty compelling; there's an excitement and honesty that normally emanates from the
speakers when Aliens are on the deck and these two great tracks are no different. Hints of grunge mixed with a looseness of punk
combine with pop/rock sensibilities to result in a commercial if somewhat grubby but hooky sound. There's nothing too clinical about
Aliens music and if the double 'A' single doesn't prove that to you then the three bonus tracks will. Recorded live at CBGB, 'Reflex
Motor', 'High Priest Break Down' and 'Watch And Learn' dish the Aliens dirt with a warts'n'all display of grim-rock - this is what you get,
this is Aliens pure, simple and honest!
Now, I know some out there won't go for Aliens lo-fi meanderings rather preferring a polished and sublimely finished end product - all
whistles and bells, mixed and produced to the hilt. But, that's obviously not the way of Aliens - Aliens give it out real, in the flesh,
proper rock'n'roll and actually benefit from the lack of studio finesse and digital enhancement. Aliens play rock music as it's meant to
be; with the guts, grime and gore still hanging of its battered and bothered 'body'.
'Committed To Wind' and 'Stow Away' combine to give the listener a true rendition of Alien rock'n'growl; like it or not you have to admit
that it's not trying to deceive anyone with clever studio embellishments of cover-ups, a very true to 'live' offering that pulls no punches
but can still hit hard.
- TOXIC PETE (Peter J Brown)
|AUSTIN CHRONICLE REVIEW:
7 and 7 Is:
By Austin Powell
...Aliens have had a textbook career thus far. Their debut EP, hand-numbered through 315, is a raw and
unnerving three-song set Live at CBGB, with guitarist and vocalist Blake Sandberg backed only by the beats
of DJ High Priest. With two drummers in tow, the local crew's new single "Committed to Wind" b/w "Stow
Away," recorded at Memphis's Sun Studios and issued on green vinyl, is equally unnerving, a visceral attack
on pop culture. Both spin at 45 rpm for Austin's Misc. Music.
|THE INDIE FACE OF MUSIC:
(ALIENS are listed as #2 of the top 7 new bands)
October 5th 2008
Aliens - (Recommend) Guinea Pig (off Head First, released November 2007 on MISC. MUSIC)
~ Punkish, noise rock-like awesomeness; a drum machine often has to be used to lay down the back beats for the
incessant guitar riffs ranges lead singer/guitarist Blake Sandberg puts on his songs
(extra info: "band" formed after moving from NYC in wake of September 11th attacks, created "alien" persona)